Plastic pipe from manufacturer JM Eagle is on its way to several ports in the continent of Africa as part of the company’s effort to bring clean water for drinking and irrigation to impoverished areas.

Donated and delivered by JM Eagle as part of an effort with the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and Millennium Villages, the more than 277 miles of PVC pipe will serve more than 125,000 people in seven countries in the sub-Saharan region.

“The drinking-water situation in Africa’s underdeveloped countries is dire,” says JM Eagle president and CEO Walter Wang. “Our goal is to reduce the rate of death and disease for the people and also help them become more self-sufficient.”

One in five people in developing countries does not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.2 million people die each year from waterborne illness – 90 percent of them children under 5 – according to world-charity organizations.

The donation, on ships currently traveling to Africa, follows a $1 million shipment between 2007 and 2008 that brought much-needed clean water to more than 13,000 people in 63 villages in Senegal.

In parts of that country, women and children were spending their days gathering briny water for drinking and cooking and carrying it back to their villages on their heads for miles. Not only was the water causing sickness and death, the method of transporting it prevented them from getting an education.

Today, JM Eagle pipe is carrying clean water to the people and their livestock, as well as irrigating fields for crops.

“It has been a life-changing experience for me to witness the conditions before the pipe and then watch the people in the villages dance for joy at the site of water flowing through the tap,” says Wang. “In aiding the development of the water infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, we are providing a long-term, life-changing and sustainable solution.”