Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on Earth Day would put the United States in the lead of responding to the worldwide crisis in drinking water and sanitation. The new bill, "The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009," commits the U.S. to extending safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of water and sanitation to 100 million people by 2015. Joining companion legislation introduced in the Senate last month, this major bipartisan initiative would put the U.S. in the forefront of addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for drinking water and sanitation.
Nearly a billion people currently lack access to safe water, and 2.5 billion people lack a way to dispose of their human wastes safely. More than two dozen resulting diseases-including cholera, typhoid, hookworm and schistosomiasis-trigger the world's most serious public health problem. Diarrheal dehydration caused by these diseases kills more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.
Development experts point out that inadequate water and sanitation undermine not only global health but efforts to protect the environment, keep children in school, and empower women. Women and children, as the primary water-haulers across the developing world, bear the brunt of this crisis.
The bill would also strengthen the capacity of USAID and U.S. Department of State to ramp up U.S. developmental and diplomatic leadership, while buttressing American private-citizen initiatives to provide safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation. The bill builds on the similarly-named landmark 2005 legislation ("The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act") that at long last made safe drinking water and sanitation a priority of U.S. foreign development assistance.
"This new legislation is critical for bringing support-both financial and human-for the water and sanitation crisis to respectable levels," said Patricia Simon, wife of the late Senator Paul Simon. "We shouldn't forget that this problem is solvable; we know the solutions."