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Celebrities reach Kilimanjaro summit in hike to highlight water shortages, help refugees

News Stories, 13 January 2010

© Courtesy of Summit on the Summit
The celebrity climbers, well padded against the cold, pose on Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak.

GENEVA, January 13 (UNHCR) American film stars Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch and other celebrities have scaled Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise awareness about global shortages of drinking water and to raise money for UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations.

"The Summit on the Summit team has reached the top of Mt Kili! A great moment captured," said a tweet sent from the mountain's highest point, 19,340-foot Uhuru Peak, on Tuesday morning and carried on the official expedition web site. The climbers, who set off up Kilimanjaro last Thursday, are now on their way back down.

Those climbing alongside Biel and Hirsch include rapper Lupe Fiasco, conservationist and explorer Alexandra Cousteau, environmentalist Kick Kennedy, award-winning photographers Michael Muller and Jimmy Chin, singer Santi White and actress Isabel Lucas.

Acclaimed Ethiopian-born musician Kenna, the mastermind behind the "Summit on the Summit," is leading the hike. His uncle died of a water-borne disease, while his father also fell ill from drinking dirty water as a child in his native Ethiopia. Elizabeth Gore, executive director of global partnerships at the United Nations Foundation, is among others taking part.

The main aim of the "Summit on the Summit" is to raise public awareness about the global clean water crisis, which affects more than 1 billion people around the world, including hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced people of concern to the UN refugee agency. Many of them live in Africa.

The group of celebrity climbers, well padded against the cold, posed on Uhuru Peak with a banner reading: "Send Water."

The climb will also raise funds to be distributed through the UN Foundation to several groups, including UNHCR, the Children's Safe Drinking Water Programme (CSDW) and Water For People and Playpumps International.

The route to the top of the world's tallest free-standing mountain took the climbers through savannah, tropical jungle, alpine pasture, moorland, desert, snowfields and glacial landscapes, according to the official expedition website.

The last 48 hours were the toughest and coldest, with the team braving a snowstorm the day before they headed for the top. After 10,000 feet the risk of altitude sickness increases, and fatigue sets in. The symptoms vary from headache, dizziness and nausea to lethargy and euphoria.

The team, who have been sending status updates, tweets, photographs and videos at regular intervals, were clearly delighted to reach the summit. "Emotional scene at top with hugging & crying. Amazing feat and successful in raising awareness," tweeted Greg Allwood, director of CSDW.

Members of the public can also make donations through the web site, sponsoring every foot of Kilimanjaro. Biel, Kenna, Gore and some of the other climbers are scheduled to visit a refugee camp in Ethiopia on Friday where UNHCR runs water projects that benefit the forcibly displaced as well as local communities.

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