The Procter & Gamble Co. says it is rushing tens of millions of water-purifying packets to famine-ravaged East Africa.
The world's largest consumer products maker announced the effort Wednesday night at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, along with aid. P&G will spend more than $3 million on the relief effort for East Africa, where drought and famine have left 13 million people depending on food aid.
The head of P&G's not-for-profit safe drinking water program, Greg Allgood, told The Associated Press that the company has ramped up production of Pur packets to provide enough to clean water for 2 million East Africans in the coming months. P&G has for years distributed Pur globally through aid agencies and to disaster areas such as earthquake-hit Haiti.
Allgood said P&G aid partners such as Population Services International had reported the high demands for clean water, undermining efforts to provide nutrition for starving people suffering from diarrhea and other water-borne diseases in the Horn of Africa region.
"The work is already under way," he said. "Packets are flowing."
Allgood also said P&G is building a plant in Singapore that should be ready next summer to add Pur-making capacity for the maker of Gillette shavers and Pantene shampoo.
Former President Bill Clinton said P&G's effort is having a global impact.
"P&G is dong more than almost any other corporation to save kids' lives by providing clean drinking water," Clinton said in a statement.
The company also said at the annual philanthropic gathering that it will extend a Pampers diapers partnership with UNICEF in which it contributes to tetanus vaccinations for mothers. P&G said the program has led to more than 300 million vaccinations since 2006 and it will continue a goal of eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2015.
And, the company will make a new promotional push to persuade more consumers in developed countries to save energy by washing their clothes in cold water. Only about a third of Americans use cold water for laundry, even though P&G says its Tide and Ariel brands' cold-water laundry products were developed in the past decade with technology to get clothes clean without hot water.
"We're going to tell them, `Try it and you will see it,' " said Dimitri Panayotopoulos, P&G's vice chairman for global businesses. "Changing habits is obviously difficult."
P&G didn't disclose details or costs of the campaign, but Panayotopoulos said in an interview that P&G considers spending on such causes a good investment toward its goal of increasing its sales in less-developed countries.
"We build P&G business by improving consumers' lives in more parts of the world more completely; it's just a natural extension," he said. "We think we do well as a company when we do good in the places where we operate."
Industry experts have said P&G builds a positive image in the developing countries with such programs, and that there is growing interest by U.S. shareholders and prospective employees in corporations linking themselves with humanitarian or sustainability causes.
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