HOUSTON, Texas — In a recent YouTube video, Representative Ted Poe urged his fellow congressmen and women to take action in support of recently introduced bill H.R. 2901, the Water for the World Act.
According to the official language of the bill its purpose is “To strengthen implementation of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 by improving the capacity of the United States Government to implement, leverage, and monitor and evaluate programs to provide first-time or improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to the world’s poorest on an equitable and sustainable basis, and for other purposes.”
In other words, as Poe explains: “Our bill requires that the United States government coordinate better by making sure that water is part of the conversation from the very beginning of a project.” This succinct explanation from the congressman belies a more important truth: that USAID has not been effectively tackling safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in its development projects.
The need for better WASH programs becomes apparent when considering how devastating lack of access to clean water and sanitation is for developing countries. In the video, Poe points to at least three important reasons WASH programs are necessary. First, woman and children are often the victims of attack as they try to access water from wells miles from their homes. Second, retrieving water miles away from their homes is a time consuming task which prevents these women from caring for their families, attending school or earning incomes. Third, each year, more children under the age of five die from water related diseases than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
This problem is only further exacerbated by USAID’s ineffective implementation of WASH programs.
Currently WASH programs make up less that one percent of USAID’s global investments every year. According to the State Department in 2011, USAID spent 20% of its WASH budget in regions where 75% of the population already had access to safe water. This is directly contrary to the 2005 Water for the Poor Act which requires that WASH programs focus on the poorest and those who are most in need of WASH services.
As such, the need for new legislation to refocus USAID’s WASH programs lead to what is basically the re-introduction of the Water for the Poor Act as the Water for the World Act. But one might ask how this bill will be any more effective than its predecessor?
One of the most important ways that Water for the World will improve on USAID’s efficiency in delivering WASH programs is that it does not require a new budget. Instead it applies lessons learned from the missteps of Water for the Poor, effectively becoming an amendment to the existing law. In the words of the congressman, “We can actually help more people, more women, without spending more money.” In others words, there is no good reason not to support this bill.
H.R. 2901 currently has 23 cosponsors from both parties. However, the more cosponsors the bill gets, the more likely it will be that the bill is marked up in the committee and brought to the house floor to be voted on.
All it takes is a quick 30 second phone call to your congressmen stating endorsement for bill H.R. 2901 Water for the World Act to help get this bill pushed through.
As Poe concludes in his video, “We have it within our power to help provide water by teaching people how to find water, use water responsibly, and maintain consistent water supply for themselves…so let’s do this.”