Baxter began supporting UNICEF's work in 2020, providing funding for the global COVID-19 pandemic response and for UNICEF's water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs in Colombia.
The support is provided through the company's philanthropic arm, the Baxter International Foundation, which was created to save and sustain lives by supporting the communities where Baxter employees live and work.
“Investing in clean water and sanitation initiatives is a key priority for the Baxter International Foundation as part of our commitment to increase access to health care. We are proud to partner with UNICEF to build critically needed water infrastructure for communities in need,” said Verónica Arroyave, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation.
A focus on supporting children and families in Colombia
A three-year WASH program in the rural La Guajira peninsula of northern Colombia is in progress with the Foundation's support in the form of a $1.5 million grant.
The project is helping the indigenous Wayúu communities in La Guajira improve health outcomes by increasing access to safe water and sanitation and hygiene, and supporting local governments through technical assistance in order to develop rural safe-water projects.
Despite repeated attempts at sourcing water locally, as few as 4% of remote communities had access to quality water sources, according to the Colombian government’s Department of Statistics. Safe water needed to be trucked in, at costs unsustainable to residents. Water contamination and lack of sanitation were still common root causes of children’s illness and premature death.
The Baxter International Foundation, UNICEF and the Hälu Foundation, implemented projects that use solar water pumps and reverse-osmosis filtration to deliver a sustainable source of water, which can be shared with nearby communities.
Critical to the success of these projects was the formation of Water Committees, where local community members take responsibility for system monitoring, management and community adoption. Local women, especially young women, are taking the lead in making the program successful long term.
Also included in the Baxter-UNICEF partnership are sanitation projects, providing alternatives to open defecation. The project is based on the SAHTOSO system, a sustainable solution which has been successfully implemented previously by UNICEF in Guatemala. Providing outhouses near residences, along with training in usage and handwashing, offers a healthier bathroom alternative within a zone of safety for women and children.
As of 2023, the partnership has benefited thousands of Wayúu children and their families in La Guajira, and is becoming a model for programs like it elsewhere in the world.
Expanding our Partnership to Egypt
Building on the successes in Colombia, Baxter International Foundation pledged $2.5 million to support UNICEF's work in Egypt, addressing the impacts of climate change on equitable safe-water access and services. Offering technical support, training, and interest-free revolving funds, the program will provide access improvements to households, health centers, schools and nurseries. UNICEF’s work, in partnership with the Egyptian government, will be conducted across the water-challenged governorates of Aswan, Assiut, Qena, and Luxor in Upper Egypt over three years.
“Investing in clean water and sanitation initiatives is a key priority for the Baxter International Foundation as part of our commitment to increase access to health care. We are proud to partner with UNICEF to build critically needed water infrastructure for communities in need,” said Verónica Arroyave, Executive Director of the Baxter International Foundation.