WASHINGTON, D.C. – In late May, USAID launched its first global water strategy, which garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans. The strategy is designed to commit the U.S. to addressing the global water, sanitation, and health (WASH) crisis. It is projected that the WASH strategy could eliminate 9.1 percent of global disease and 6.3 percent of deaths. Although USAID has funded projects addressing water issues in the past, this new initiative heightens WASH’s importance to being an institutionalized part of USAID.
The number of people affected by the WASH crisis is staggering. More than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation. According to USAID’s website, “Diarrhea alone kills nearly 2 million people worldwide each year, of which 1.5 million are children. Nearly 90 percent of diarrhea is attributed to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene, and effective sanitation services alone can reduce diarrheal disease by up to 45 percent.” USAID projects that by 2025 nearly two-thirds of the world’s population could be under severe water stress.
The WASH crisis does not only affect disease and water supply, but also impacts many other global concerns. Food security is integrally linked to water usage; 70 percent of water consumption goes towards agricultural production. Transporting water requires significant time and energy, and 40 billion working hours per year are lost to water collection. Water is also a potential source of conflict, making sustainable WASH practices important to U.S. global security interests.
USAID’s strategy revolves around two distinct points:
1) Improving health outcomes through the provision of sustainable WASH
2) Manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security. The strategy will emphasize a more efficient use of rainfall and irrigation systems to improve sustainability.
USAID, by implementing the WASH strategy, is recognizing the magnitude of the water and development crisis. The U.S. government, with its bipartisan support for the strategy, also is recognizing the crisis and that it is not just a problem for the developing world. The future of sustainable water affects the whole world.
– Martin Drake