Lisa Schechtman, head of policy and advocacy at WaterAid in America, celebrates the Water for the World Act and its bipartisan commitment to saving lives.
These days, it seems Americans have come to expect partisan stalemates in Washington, and foreign aid certainly hasn’t been immune. But a bipartisan group of congressmen, led by Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Judge Ted Poe, R-Texas, has shown that there is still commitment to US leadership on global health and development.
This month, they introduced the Water for the World Act of 2012, a companion to the Senate version (championed by Senators Durbin, D-Ill., and Corker, R-Tenn., and reminded us that meeting basic human needs and saving lives is a fundamental value of Congress.
Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) underpin many of our international health and development objectives. The most obvious contribution of WASH is to child survival: 4,000 children under five die each day due to diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. In fact, diarrheal disease is the number one killer of kids in sub-Saharan Africa, more than die from AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.
WASH also has important impacts on other poverty-reduction and human rights goals, including:
- women’s empowerment;
- increased economic productivity;
- prevention of gender-based violence;
- increased girls’ school enrollment and attendance;
- improved nutrition; and
- increased efficacy of antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS.
So how does Water for the World help?
First, it builds off the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, to improve coordination between WASH and other areas WASH can benefit, to make sure we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck.
Second, it enhances the targeting of existing investments in WASH, to make sure we’re reaching the poorest people.
Third, it helps preserve WASH as a bipartisan priority and a hallmark intervention of USAID.
Finally, the bill advances critical principles of aid effectiveness by improving monitoring, evaluation and transparent reporting, and supporting USAID’s ability to lead the work that is its mandate.
WASH has a return of $8 in saved health care costs and increased economic productivity for every $1 spent. And, a recent poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe safe water and sanitation should be a priority for the US government when assisting developing countries. That shows the public also realizes WASH makes good sense, not only on its own, but because it can help advance other objectives. Water for the World brings together common sense, US leadership, and members of Congress. This is an awfully good start.
You can show your support by tweeting about water, sanitation, and the importance of keeping all of foreign aid on the agenda, using the hash tag #Water4World.