Jay-Z's Battle for Clean Water

ByABC News
November 27, 2006, 1:25 PM

Nov. 27, 2006 — -- Not content just to live the life of an ultra-wealthy rap mogul, Jay-Z started searching for something that would allow him to give back to the world.

"I was looking for a cause to attach myself to," he said. "I knew I was going to some places where there was problems and as soon as I came across the problems of water, and seen the numbers that were attached to it, I was like -- this is it."

After doing some research he learned that the lack of clean water is a global crisis that blights the lives of millions of people every day. The United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water and more than 2.6 billion live without proper sanitation.

"Three people die every three minutes ... from easily preventable diseases," Jay-Z said.

In order to see these problems firsthand, Jay-Z approached MTV and invited a crew to follow him during visits to Angola and South Africa. But he wanted to do more than entertain and meet and greet fans.

"I set an incredibly lofty goal of getting the U.N. involved," he said. "So they spoke to my people, they spoke to MTV and then the whole thing happened and it's like -- wow!"

The result is a public awareness campaign launched by the United Nations and spearheaded by a 30-minute documentary, "Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life," which debuted on MTV last week and can be seen on their website.

The documentary follows Jay-Z during two visits to Angola, then Durban, South Africa.

In the town of Luanda, Angola, he followed 14-year-old Bela, who must fetch and carry 40 pounds of water, twice a day. When he offered to help share the burden and carry the water on a one-half-mile trek, he was taken aback by the sheer strength that was required.

"It's not only 40 pounds ... it's water so it moves," he said. "And the roads, they aren't paved. It's not like walking on perfectly paved Fifth Avenue. You're walking on rocks and it's a dirt road and the water is moving. I couldn't walk to the end of the block holding it. I had to switch hands about three times."