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WaterAid launches powerful film highlighting family bonds and the life changing ‘First Cup’ of clean water

WaterAid has launched a visually striking new campaign highlighting the impact access to clean water has across generations, working closely with a community in Malawi who helped shape the final creative.

The 60 second film, titled ‘First Cup’, was shot in Zomba, Malawi. It follows the story of a 10-year-old girl called Lucia as her community are celebrating that they now have reliable access to clean water for the first time. The footage shows Lucia as she runs to hand the first cup of clean water to her grandmother, who has spent her life without this basic human right, so that she can be the first to drink it – a depiction of love but also a reflection that her life will be different to her grandmother’s now that she can grow up with clean water.

Globally, 771 million people – one in ten – have no clean water close to home. This often means long walks to collect dirty water, with the burden mainly borne by women and girls, leaving little time or energy left for paid work or school. A lack of clean water influences the spread of deadly diseases such as cholera. Malawi, where the film is focused, experienced its worst ever cholera outbreak this year. Clean water and sanitation services as well as hygiene behaviours represent the only long-term solution for ending cholera. With clean water on tap, along with decent toilets and good hygiene, people can stay healthy and whole communities can thrive, as the film depicts.

Screened across UK cinemas and prime time TV ad breaks, including Celebrity Gogglebox, over the weekend, the film was created in collaboration with independent creative agency Don’t Panic and shot by Anonymous Content’s Elena Petitti di Roreto. As part of the production process WaterAid conducted workshops with the community to gain feedback, insight, and culturally accurate information which was incorporated into the final film script. ‘First Cup’ was inspired by the experiences and insight of community members. This participatory project also involved casting local, non-professional actors.

Dennis Lupenga, Cultural Director for the film and WaterAid Voices from the Field Officer said,

“Having access to clean water is transformative, but in Malawi one in three people still don’t have this simple but essential resource.

Working directly with the community to create this awareness raising film was a privilege. There will be other girls of a similar age to Lucia who walk miles for water, often missing school to do so. This has to change. Small moments – such as a first cup of water – can represent huge changes. This is why we are here as WaterAid – to work with communities to bring clean water to them and future generations.”

WaterAid reached this community with clean water in 2019, as part of its Deliver Life Project which aims to increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for women, girls and children in health centres, early childhood development centres and surrounding communities in the Zomba and Machinga Districts of Malawi. WaterAid received core funding of just under £1.3m from the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund to make this project possible, alongside other donors including Scottish Water, Northern Ireland Water employees and partners who contributed £1.5m.

International Development Minister Christina McKelvie said,

WaterAid’s new campaign film shows the difference having access to a clean sustainable water supply has made to the Zomba community, one of two districts in Malawi that have benefited from this project since 2018.

I’m proud that the Scottish Government’s contribution of just under £1.3 million from our International Development Fund has helped to improve health outcomes in low-income rural communities and peri-urban areas, particularly for women, adolescent girls and children under-five.”

Find out more about the story behind the film here:

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