The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released their first five-year Water and Development Strategy on May 21, 2013. This is the first strategy report to be released by any U.S. government agency. It details how sustainable use of water lengthens and improves lives of people all over the world, especially in developing countries.
There are almost 800 million people in the world who lack access to safe drinking water and an astounding 2.5 billion people who lack access to sanitation. It is predicted by 2025, two thirds of the world will be living in severe water stress conditions, meaning they will have difficulty obtaining sources of fresh water for use.
The strategy, released by USAID administrator Rajiv Shav, Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congressman Ted Poe, strives to address global water-development needs. It outlines two specific strategic objectives to achieve this goal: the Water for Health and the Water for Food programs.
The objective of Water for Health is to improve health outcomes by advancing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions. By doing so, they hope to make safe water and sanitation reliable and accessible, thereby increasing food security and nutrition. Since diarrheal diseases are a significant issue in regions where water sanitation is poor, this objective also aims to decrease the instances of water-related infections.
The WASH program would include three pillars: (1) water and sanitation infrastructure, (2) the promotion of hygienic behavior change and (3) support to an enabling policy and institutional environment. Depending on the development context, USAID will place emphasis on the pillars that require the highest level of intervention.
Food security is the main objective for the Water for Food program. This program outlines the pathways through which countries can promote greater agricultural sustainability in the most productive manner. The program is necessary to ensure a balance between water used for agriculture and water used locally for sustenance. It is a way to approach the competing water needs of households, agriculture and industry.
Through the Water for Food program, USAID will help to fund producers with the labor costs associated with watershed management. With support from the private sector, USAID hopes to invest in the upkeep of “natural” landscapes, so as to mitigate floods, reduce erosion and ensure that the ecosystem is preserved for future generations.
USAID plans to implement these programs through a series of country-specific operational principles that are essential in increasing food security and improving health. The principles include supporting host country ownership, promoting gender equality and female empowerment, and leveraging science and technology. These operational principles are intended to provide the foundation for the Water and Development Strategy’s integration into USAID programming.
The Water for Health and Water for Food programs are a reflection of U.S. government’s commitment to partnering up with the international community to ensure the security of both food and water for every person around the globe.
– Kathryn Cassibry
Photo: Flood The Nations