United States Needs To Improve Efforts on Global Sanitation Crises

Report Demands Administration Action as Part of World Toilet Day Events

WASHINGTON (November 18, 2010) -- In the five years since the historic Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act became law, the United States has made limited progress in helping the 2.6 billion people worldwide who do not have adequate sanitation resources, the Natural Resources Defense Council, WaterAid, CARE and 11 other organizations said in a report released today.

A lack of strategic planning; inadequate political prioritization of safe water, sanitation and hygiene issues; and limited programming capacity at the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) and the State Department are just some of the reasons the government has fallen behind on the implementation of the law, the groups say.

“The United States government has a long way to go to meet its obligations to the needs of people around the world without access to safe sanitation, said Heather Allen,  International Program advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “ With two in five people worldwide lacking access to a safe place to go the bathroom, on World Toilet Day we must commit to redouble our efforts to solve the global sanitation crisis.”

In the report, “U.S. Implementation of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act: Small Steps for a Crisis that Calls for Great Strides,”advocates outline what the Obama administration needs to do to address the global sanitation crisis and why it needs to happen immediately.

In addition to the report’s recommendations for the administration, Congress passing the Water for the World Act can help build the capacity within the government to implement the Water for the Poor Act, passed in 2005, and would set a target for reaching 100 million people worldwide with safe water and sanitation.

“Threats from the global freshwater crisis grow each day, from increasing water shortages here at home to the billion people worldwide already living on the brink,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who introduced the Water for the Poor Act and is a sponsor of the Water for the World Act. “The United States must act swiftly to confront this stunning poverty and insecurity.”

“The Water for the World Act addresses the shortfalls in the implementation of our current aid programs that were identified by NRDC and others.  It will enable the U.S. government to vastly improve the effectiveness by which we confront this challenge and we will save more lives,” Blumenauer said.

Approximately 4,000 children under 5 years old in the developing world die each day from diarrheal diseases related to unsafe water and a lack of adequate sanitation.  Diarrhea caused by unsafe water and sanitation kills more children under 5 every year than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.

“Disease and death caused by unsafe drinking water and sanitation disproportionately affect poor children in poor countries,” said Dr. David Winder, CEO WaterAid, America. “However, the bulk of U.S. assistance for water and sanitation is going to a handful of politically strategic countries whose populations have relatively good access to these basic services.  For the U.S. government to have the greatest impact on saving lives and alleviating suffering, it must improve the level of resources that are directed specifically to poor countries.”

The report, which has support from Action Against Hunger, AMREF, Catholic Relief Services, Global Water Challenge, H20 for Life, International Housing Coalition. Millennium Water Alliance, PATH, PSI (Population Services International), Water for People and Water.org, was one of many events recognizing World Toilet Day on Nov. 19, 2010. http://www.worldtoilet.org/

The organizations want the administration to take action now to save countless lives.

“In order to ensure that the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers are getting the most possible out of this investment, it is crucial that the administration release a real strategy by which its efforts can be judged,” said Peter Lochery, director of the Water Team at CARE. “Having a comprehensive strategy is the only way we are going to know that the most effective and sustainable approaches are being used that will result in the biggest positive impact for poor people around the world.”