Scouts across the UK unite in walks for WaterAid this World Water Day

21 March 2018
Ellie Simmonds with 2nd East London Scouts at the launch of the walk for water WaterAid/Dave Bird

More than 27,000 Scouts, other young people from across the UK and globally are organising sponsored walks in their communities to support WaterAid’s life-saving work while also raising awareness of the millions of women and girls who spend hours each day walking to collect water.

Ellie Simmonds, Paralympian swimmer and Ambassador for WaterAid and the Scouts, joined the launch of the nationwide event at a walk in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 13 March. Ellie said:

“It’s so easy for us to take clean water for granted, yet one in nine people live without it. Through my work with WaterAid, I’ve met families who don’t have clean water, and seen the devastating impact it has on their lives. Time spent collecting water keeps children out of school, while drinking dirty water can lead to diarrhoeal diseases that can be deadly. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Scouts up and down the country are showing how we can all play a part in helping get clean water to everyone everywhere. It is inspiring to see young people doing something to help the generation of tomorrow.”

The walks, which are part of Scouting’s ground-breaking A Million Hands Campaign, are taking place on and around 22 March to mark World Water Day – a time to focus global attention on the one in nine people who lack access to clean water.

The young people across the UK, as well as in Poland, the US, the Netherlands and Madagascar are using the moment to add their voices to the global call for clean water and toilets for everyone everywhere. They are also raising money for their fellow Scouts in Madagascar, who are working with WaterAid to improve access to these basic facilities in their own country.

A staggering 88% of people in Madagascar have no decent toilet, while more than half lacks access to clean water, meaning millions of women and girls have no choice to walk long distances every day to collect water from unsafe sources.

Bear Grylls, Chief Scout, said:

“I’m so proud of the difference Scouts are making in their local community as well as across the world. Together, they are proving that young people care about global issues and are sending out a unified message that everyone everywhere should have clean water and sanitation.”

The groups are adding their own challenges to the walks, with many involving the wider community to get involved and several groups completing their sponsored walks while carrying containers as heavy as 20kgs, which is the same weight as the average jerry can of water, and equal to the standard airline luggage allowance.

Scouts are supporting WaterAid as part of the A Million Hands programme, which provides the opportunity for young people to make a positive difference in the world around them through community action whilst learning new skills.

For more information, please contact Laura Crowley at [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4965. Alternatively, please call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £24 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database


Adventure is at the core of Scouting. The Scout Association passionately believes in helping their members fulfil their full physical, intellectual social and spiritual potentials by working in teams, learning by doing and thinking for themselves. Scouting provides opportunities for members to do this, and to continue to take risks in a safe environment, and have their first taste of responsibility.

A Million Hands

The Million Hands campaign is enlisting half a million Scouts to work with some of the UK’s biggest charities – WaterAid, Mind, The Alzheimer’s Society (Dementia Friends), Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust – over four years. The charities were chosen by Scouts themselves, reflecting what they care about.

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage