It’s hard for us to imagine a world where we’d have to walk hours on end to fill up our water bottles, even then not knowing if it was safe to drink. Sadly, that’s the reality for 1.42 billion people globally, 450 million of them children. Living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability, it is the children who suffer most. Water-borne diseases are among the leading causes of death in children under five. Many children miss out on play and education as they spend their days traveling long distances just to get water. There’s no rest day. It’s seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
In recent years the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been working to improve water, sanitation and basic hygiene in these areas of vulnerability. When communities have access to safe water, it creates opportunities for education, health care, protection, and nutrition too.
As part of the ongoing effort to fund this aid work, Les Mills has partnered with UNICEF to raise awareness and money to help create a world where every child survives and thrives.
The work started back in 2017 when Phillip Mills, Les Mills founder and CEO, and Rachael Newsham, Les Mills Program Director, travelled with UNICEF to a refugee camp in South Sudan. Seeing the scale of the problem first-hand and meeting the resourceful and resilient people there was an extremely powerful experience for both, reinforcing their desire to make a difference.
“These people are living under incredibly difficult conditions, but trying to create as normal an environment as possible for their kids to grow up in.” says Phillip, “It’s heart-rending.”
“They have nothing, they’re in fear for their lives … and they urgently need help in the form of clean water, food and medical care.”
In 2019 and 2020, Workout for Water raised almost US$600,000, which was used by UNICEF to upgrade the water supply of the remote Yelam Gej and Lega villages in Ethiopia. This new solar-powered system now provides water for one healthcare center, two schools, and 280 households. It’s also connected more small villages to have better access to water without having to walk and queue for hours.
With access to clean, safe, and sustainable water, the children of these communities can grow up healthy, strong, and safe from waterborne diseases. They also have more time to spend on study and playtime now that they don't need to walk for hours each day to collect water.
In 2024, Les Mills and UNICEF are bringing back Workout For Water and the funds raised will support UNICEF’s full spread of life-changing Health, Education, Nutrition, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), and Protection programs.
Open to fitness lovers all over the planet, this truly life-changing fitness challenge starts on March 22, 2024, and involves doing 450 reps every day for seven days. The 450 reps represent the 450 million children who live in areas of water vulnerability.
These reps can be done anywhere anytime – at your local gym, at home, outside, or even in the office. You can do them independently or share the load across a team. If you want top tips and exercise recommendations check out the helpful resources.
The sooner you sign up, the more time you have to help raise much-needed funds. Find out more about how you can get involved here and put the date in your diary now to help make a fitter planet.
UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, product, or service.
 All funds raised will be allocated to Core Resources for Results, including vital support for global programmes focused on water. Core Resources for Result is funding without restrictions, to be used flexibly for children wherever and whenever the need is greatest. This enables UNICEF to achieve the greatest impact for children by ensuring expert staff across all programme areas; scaling up proven solutions globally; leading and pioneering new ideas for children; meeting children's needs throughout childhood and adolescence; and being there before, during, and after an emergency. The 2022 Core Resources for Results (RR) Report focuses on UNICEF's climate and sustainability work around the world.
 'Far too many children - 436 million - are facing the double burden of high or very high water scarcity and low or very low drinking water service levels - known as extreme water vulnerability - leaving their lives, health, and well-being at risk. It is one of the key drivers of deaths among children under 5 from preventable diseases.' Climate-Changed Child report 1 in 3 children exposed to severe water scarcity - UNICEF, published on 13 November 2023.