Today is ICAP Charity Day, when all revenues and commissions from the leading markets operator, across its global offices, will be donated to charity. WaterAid is ICAP's first ever Global Beneficiary, and all the money donated will support our work in Madagascar. Read on to hear from WaterAid’s Ernest Randriarimalala about how investing in water and sanitation in Madagascar reaps great returns. "What the guide books tell you about my home country of Madagascar is true; it is breathtakingly beautiful. Rainforests, deserts, beaches and barrier reefs adorn this spectacular island, providing rich habitats to a diverse range of plants and wildlife. "However, behind this natural beauty is a bleaker story that is more seldom told; one of poverty and lost opportunities. For in Madagascar, over half the population has no clean water to drink and an overwhelming 89% have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. Every year, more than 4,000 children here die from diarrhoea, caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s 11 families losing a child to a preventable disease every single day. "Growing up, I thought it was normal to be sick. Someone was always missing school because of stomach aches or diarrhoea. There were a few pit latrines in my village, but none at my school, so everyone went in the bamboo behind the school. "Every morning, I collected water for my family from a dirty water source. We knew it was unsafe to drink, but we had no other option. Our school didn’t have any water at all, so we often went the whole day without drinking anything. It’s just the way it was. "This year, through my work with WaterAid, I had the incredible opportunity to leave Madagascar for the first time and visit London. It was a very eye-opening experience. In the same way I never used to think twice about not having clean water and a toilet, people in London don’t think twice about having it; it’s just the way it is. Imagine if poor communities in Madagascar had that same opportunity! "I was struck by the contrast between the River Thames and the one that I know best – the Ikopa River in Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo. While still a working river, the Thames is also a place for leisure. Back home, people also flock to the river, but for different reasons. Its banks are lined not with restaurants and art galleries, but with brightly-coloured laundry, spread out to dry in the sun. "With no reliable water supplies at home, people come to the Ikopa every day to collect water, wash clothes or bathe while buffalo drink and graze on its banks. Like the Thames, the atmosphere along the Ikopa is lively too. But the risk of deadly water-related diseases casts a shadow over the happy scene. It’s not uncommon for pit latrines to be emptied into these same waters, and the threat of disease is ever-present. "Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Thames was also polluted with human waste and, as a result, cholera and typhoid ran rife. However, large-scale investments in safe water supplies and sewerage systems have all but banished such water-related diseases to the history books. "I hope that, one day, Malagasy people too can take safe water and sanitation for granted and enjoy the benefits that will result from this. The provision of these basic services forms the foundations to a better future. Healthy and free from the burden of collecting water, children can go to school and families can earn a living. Furthermore, setting up systems to manage water and sanitation services provides employment opportunities. "Currently, the total global economic loss associated with inadequate water supply and sanitation has been estimated at US$260 billion. "Investing in water and sanitation makes sound economic sense. The World Bank has stated that hygiene promotion is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. For every £1 spent on the provision of these vital services, £4 is returned in increased productivity – how many other investments can guarantee such impressive returns while also transforming lives? "ICAP has realised the significant of investing in water and sanitation. Today, the leading markets operator is holding a Charity Day in its offices across the world where all its revenues and broking commissions will go to good causes. WaterAid is the first ever global beneficiary of this remarkable initiative, and the donation will be life-changing for tens of thousands of Malagasy people who are currently living without access to clean, safe water and sanitation. "Water really is the one thing that changes everything. Together with sanitation and improved hygiene, safe water forms the first essential step in overcoming poverty. "By supporting WaterAid’s country-wide programmes, ICAP will enable development to continue, building a blue-print for projects to be rolled out across rural areas in Madagascar, and a sustainable infrastructure that will change lives. "Working at WaterAid, I know we are not the only country facing these challenges, so I hope that this partnership will help raise awareness amongst others about the significant value or investing in a world where everyone, everywhere has access to clean, safe water and improved sanitation".