The State Department has published its Safe Water and Sanitation Strategy, a plan for expanding access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation throughout the world. The Strategy is required by the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 109-121). The Water for the Poor Act makes the provision of safe drinking water, improved sanitation and hygiene a formal priority of U.S. foreign policy.
Currently 1.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people are without basic sanitation. Diseases related to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation cause over 80% of illnesses in the developing world and kill between 2 and 5 million children each year. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation serves as a catalyst for better public health, education, poverty reduction and gender equality. It also helps bring stability to areas of conflict and crisis where citizens are disenfranchised and desperate for the most basic necessities.
“The Safe Water and Sanitation Strategy will set forth our government’s efforts to address this tremendous humanitarian need,” said David Douglas, president of Water Advocates. “If the strategy is done right, it will help the government do its part and complement the efforts already underway in the private sector and the faith community.”
At a recent Capitol Hill briefing on safe drinking water and sanitation hosted by the Rotary Club of Washington D.C. and Water Advocates, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the Senate and House sponsors of the bill, reaffirmed the importance of the strategy in implementing their vision of safe water for the world’s poor. In his remarks, Senator Frist stated that as a physician, he is acutely aware of the deadly impact of unsafe water and waterborne diseases, and of the opportunity for the U.S. government, led by the Department of State, to assume a greater leadership role in reducing these millions of preventable illnesses and deaths.