Posted by: beyond5 March 2013

By Lisa Bos, health policy advisor, World Vision US

Clean water, sanitation and good hygiene are basic necessities most Americans take for granted, but for many children around the world, they can be the difference between life and death.

In the world today, nearly one billion people lack access to drinking water from an improved drinking water source such as a simple hand pump well or a piped water system and 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation.

These problems with water and sanitation access combined with hygiene issues cause diarrheal diseases which kill 1.5 million children under the age of 5 every year, more than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Add in the dangers of other water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)‐related disease such as chronic malnutrition associated with repeated bouts of diarrhea and intestinal parasites and four children die every minute from preventable problems caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Although progress is being made through partnerships between the U.S. government, non‐governmental organizations, businesses, and local partners, more still needs to be done.

 

Saving lives through legislation

The Water for the Poor Act of 2005 is a vital part of that fight. Through the programs under the Act, the United States has brought safe water and sanitation to more than 50 million people.  Research has shown that every $1 spent on sanitation generates an average of $8 in economic benefit, an example of how money spent on clean water, sanitation and hygiene has a high return on investment. The benefits can also be seen in higher school participation, lower disease rates and health care costs, more productive time, and more‐secure communities.

Last year, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress, the Water for the World Act, which would build upon the Water for the Poor Act to improve the investments the U.S. government is making in WASH.  The bill would improve agency coordination, to ensure that funding is spent well and reaching those in need, and would increase integration of WASH into other development programs like health, agriculture, nutrition and conservation.

Unfortunately, the bill was not passed by both houses of Congress and now the new Congress needs to start over with new legislation.

 

What you can do

This year on World Water Day (March 22), thousands of advocates raised their voices to ask Congress to support and pass this important bill.

Hundreds of advocates went to Washington D.C. to meet in person with Members of Congress and their staff to get their support for Water for the World.

Even if you couldn’t make it to D.C., you can still use your voice. You can call or email to urge Congress to pass the Water for the World Act, and ask your Representative and Senators to cosponsor this life-saving legislation.

Act now to help save more children’s lives.