SAN JOSE, California – There are hundreds of millions of people in the world’s poorest areas that lack access to the most basic of life’s necessities – safe drinking water. Young girls often skip school to retrieve water from distant and often unsafe sources, dramatically impacting their education and health – nearly half the children that die in poor nations succumb to diarrheal disease, something easily preventable with access to safe water.
When the U.S. committed to the Goals for Sustainable Development at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development, their goals included halving the population of those without clean water by 2015. With this ambition in mind, the leading U.S.-based NGOs in water and sanitation banded together to bring clean water to the disadvantaged, creating the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA).
Since its inception in 2002, the MWA has sought to provide effective and sustainable solutions for WASH issues – water, sanitation and hygiene. Owing to the highly effective nature of WASH, which gives an $8 return in economic productivity for every dollar invested, the top NGOs in the fields of water and sanitation formed the MWA as a 501(c)(3) organization to promote high standards for transparency, program quality and accountability, as well as raise awareness about the critical need to provide committed and sustainable water solutions and sanitation.
Firmly believing that nobody should suffer chronic illness or die because of a water-related disease, the MWA aims to offer sustainable solutions by sharing their knowledge, advocating and collaboratively programming. Each member of the MWA brings their individual strengths to the table and brainstorms on long-term solutions with maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the MWA’s consortium field programs, which operate in Africa and Latin America.
These field programs strategically tackle the critical WASH issues in vulnerable countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, using inexpensive yet durable, locally-appropriate technologies, like gravity fed water systems and rainwater harvesting, to increase the safe water supply. They not only immediately benefit the communities, but they are cost-effective and sustainable, improving WASH for the long term, helping vulnerable nations graduate from foreign aid to becoming successful in their own right.
With the help of the MWA, 2.3 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources between 1990 and 2012, and the world met the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved water sources in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. However, the MWA still faces WASH challenges – 700 million people still lack improved water source access while 2.5 billion people in developing countries still lack access to improved sanitation facilities.
The MWA now has fifteen members, all of which share the standards held by the MWA by embodying the values of accountability, transparency and cultural sensitivity as they work to make WASH a basic way of life. Besides working directly in the field with impoverished communities to improve WASH, the MWA also directly lobbies Congress and regularly meets with agencies like USAID to share knowledge and urge greater commitment to improving the world’s safe water access.
– Annie Jung
Sources: Millennium Water Alliance, Millennium Water Alliance, United Nations
Photo: Cold Medicine