WASHINGTON, D.C. – Clean water and sanitation come as basic necessities easily accessible in American homes. However, the same cannot be said for households in other parts of the world. The United States Fund for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF USA) estimated that 768 million people worldwide must live without safe sources of water. Proper sanitation is unavailable to 2.5 billion people.
Water for the World Act
United States Senator Paul Simon introduced the Water for the World Act of 2013 on August 1, 2013. The bill was formed to bolster Simon’s Water for the Poor Act of 2005. If passed, the United States Government will be better equipped to provide equitable and sustainable access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in the most impoverished countries.
The Water for the World Act has recently experienced a surge in congressional support. New cosponsors such as U.S. Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) signed on in March and April 2014. The Water for the World Act has 69 cosponsors as of now, consisting of both democrats and republicans.
The most impoverished and at risk countries and communities receive top priority under the Water for the World Act. Women and girls, refugees and displaced persons are especially of concern. The water and sanitation programs are designed for local ownership and sustainability with long-term financial or commercial viability.
World Water Crisis
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that 5,000 children die daily from diseases caused by unsafe water and improper sanitation. Many of the diseases that claim these children’s lives are easily preventable, according to the organization.
Diarrheal disease and respiratory infections are the main causes of death in children exposed to unsafe water and improper sanitation. Children who live in such conditions are much more likely to die. Congressional data revealed that children under the age of five make up 90 percent of the deaths from diarrheal disease.
Undrinkable water, insufficient sanitation and poor hygiene cause 80 percent of diarrheal disease cases. Children can potentially suffer debilitating aftereffects in the event of surviving diarrheal disease. Diarrheal disease may leave lifelong physical and mental impairment.
Safe water and proper sanitation are important to children’s health and education. Children are able to attend school because they are no long afflicted by water and sanitation related illnesses. Households are able to improve economically as well. Parents who normally stayed home to care for their ill children can get jobs and earn an income.
Water and sanitation have an economic impact. According to UNDP, a country can gain an average economic return of $4.4 to $1 from water supply investments and $9.1 to $1 for sanitation investments. The organization also found that water and sanitation have a greater influence on human development than health or education spending and energy service access.
Does the world not have enough water for everyone? The lack of water in some countries would suggest that there is physically a global water shortage, but that is not the case. UNDP found that poverty, power and inequality caused the global water and sanitation crisis.
The availability of safe water and proper sanitation begins and ends with governance. The crisis remedy lies within government reform as a fundamental part of strategic measures. Programs under the Water for the World Act give governments the support they need to provide affordable and equitable water and sanitation access to the domestic population.