When I was in India this past May with Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I saw firsthand how safe drinking water and sanitation needs impact people living in extreme poverty. I spent a scorching afternoon with temperatures climbing almost to 120 degrees Fahrenheit touring one of WaterAid’s work sites, an unauthorized slum named the Vivekananda Camp.
At this one location, the people had been fortunate to finally receive somewhere safe and hygienic to use the bathroom. A community toilet compound. Although the slum did not have running water, at least it had somewhere people could go to take care of their bodily needs and help eliminate the spread of deadly diseases and the horrible humiliation of open defecation.
As I stood outside the Community Toilet Complex (CTC), I couldn’t help but rest my eyes on a painfully slow-moving woman. A woman who had undoubtedly spent her entire life living within the confines of a slum. She was hunched over and bent on her cane and slowly dragged her feet across the ground, one step at a time, as she left the Community Toilet Complex we had just toured.
My gaze followed her snail-paced movements with sorrow and dismay, wondering how on earth she had managed all these years living in such deplorable conditions, many of which she lived without a proper toilet and no running water. It made me realize how incredibly unfair life can be. Millions of people live without safe drinking water and sanitation all over the world. It is a tragic reality that is hard to believe. Yet we can change it.
Worldwide, 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. 2.5 billion people, or nearly 36% of the world’s population, live without improved sanitation.
Source: WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water and Sanitation. Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water: 2013 Update. Available at http://www.wssinfo.org/data-estimates/introduction/
The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act 2013
In early August, a piece of legislation was reintroduced into the US Government that aims to address the water shortage around the world and help improve the inequities and change the lives for millions. The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act is bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressmen Blumenauer (D-OR) and Judge Poe (R-TX) that responds to this critical moment in time and opportunity by making better use of existing clean water and sanitation funds, improving international development efforts, and enhancing other foreign policy objectives.
“Every day, the world becomes more crowded, with fewer freshwater resources, and increased complexity when trying to achieve equitable access to this resource which is most fundamental to human life”.
-Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-OR.
– Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-OR
Why we should act now
It has been argued by many scholars, lawmakers and top governmental agencies, that the water crisis impedes US national security and foreign policy goals in many way including poverty reduction, crisis mitigation, disaster response, women’s empowerment and economic growth. Furthermore, investing in clean drinking water, safe toilets and hygiene education is one of the most effective and efficient things that we can do to boost impact on whole range of global challenges, ranging from child health and nutrition, to conservation and education.
Economically, investing in water and sanitation is a good deal. For every $1 invested in clean water, sanitation and hygiene, at least $4 is returned in saved health care costs and increased economic productivity. Research estimates that providing toilets alone to everyone who needs it would return $220 billion each year to the global economy. It is proven too that investments in safe drinking water and toilets have broad-reaching benefits at home and around the world.*
Now it an opportune moment to harness support for a US and global leadership on providing water for the water. It is true we are living in a complex world with many competing thoughts on how to make it a better place. Yet isn’t providing water and sanitation one of the most basic human rights to life? We can make a difference and impact how millions are living around the world.
*Author’s note on the source of information: All the above information about Water for the World is from WaterAid. I have used most of WaterAid’s verbiage with permission and have included it here to educate readers on what the legislation is all about. The documentation about my personal experiences in India and viewpoints are my own.
What you can do to help:
If you are a US resident, check to see the position of your Member of Congress on supporting the Water for the World Act. Learn more and spread the word. To write to your Member of Congress on an easy to complete form, click here.
To learn more about the Water for the World act, click here.
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