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Celebs Climb Kilimanjaro for Clean Water

With last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti, we're reminded of the value of life's most basic necessity—water. So, efforts to raise awareness about this precious resource couldn't have come at a better time.

A group of celebrities, activists, and philanthropists—actress Jessica Biel, actor Emile Hirsch, musician Santigold, and activist Alexandra Cousteau (of Jacques Cousteau lineage), to name just a few—recently banded together to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a part of Summit on the Summit (SOTS), and shine a spotlight on the importance of clean drinking water.

The crew reached the top of Kilimanjaro—which, at 19,340 feet, is Africa's tallest peak—last Tuesday, where they stopped briefly to take a photograph (below) before beginning the (much less arduous) trek back down to the bottom. (The ascent took a grueling 6 days, while the descent took just 2.)

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Created by Grammy-nominated musician and activist Kenna—born in Ethiopia, one of many countries plagued by the effects of waterborne diseases—his ties to the cause are close and deeply personal. (His father was affected by water-related illness as a child and his uncle passed away from such an illness.)

Climbers regularly updated their progress via Twitter while the website publicly monitored heart rates, oxygen levels, steepness of the climb, weather conditions, and—most importantly—reminded people how to donate to the cause.

Some facts about the effects of unclean drinking water:

- There are still over 1 billion people who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
- Every 15 seconds a child dies from a preventable water-related disease
- Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death, taking the lives of 3.575 million people a year and are responsible for 80 percent of all sickness in the world.
- By 2025, the number of people without access to clean water could increase to 2.3 billion.
- Less than 1% of the world's fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use.

To date, SOTS has helped to raise nearly 6,000,000 liters of clean water for struggling countries around the globe. The return from donations is astounding: for just 1 penny, 1 liter of clean, safe, drinking water can be produced. So truly, it does not take much to see tremendous results.

For more information on Summit on the Summit, the efforts to bring clean water to those in need, and to donate to the cause, visit the official website.

Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Michael Muller.

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