Water Advocates: State Department water strategy 'important step' to address world water problem

In a report to Congress yesterday, the U.S. State Department released its safe water and sanitation strategy, a plan for expanding access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation throughout the world. The strategy is required by the landmark Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005. The Water for the Poor Act makes the provision of safe drinking water, improved sanitation and hygiene a heightened priority of U.S. foreign policy...

WASHINGTON, DC, June 2, 2006 -- In a report to Congress yesterday, the U.S. State Department released its safe water and sanitation strategy, a plan for expanding access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation throughout the world. The strategy is required by the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 109-121). The Water for the Poor Act makes the provision of safe drinking water, improved sanitation and hygiene a heightened priority of U.S. foreign policy.

"The State Department's June 1st Report to Congress is a necessary and important step on the long journey to directing more US water aid to the world's poor" said David Douglas, President of Water Advocates. "Though lacking the vision and urgency of the Water for the Poor Act itself, the Report sketches promising new routes toward the Act's objectives. Moreover, in quiet, cold numbers the Report tacitly reveals how little U.S. Government funding currently goes toward providing safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation in regions of most need. The White House and Congress need to bridge this chasm between good intentions and actual funding. The Report provides an invaluable reckoning of how far the U.S. has to go to meet the goals of the Water for the Poor Act and the hopes of the poor for water."

Along with numerous water development organizations, Water Advocates provided comments to the State Department during the drafting of the Strategy. During the process, Water Advocates urged that the Strategy set bold goals, reach the poor throughout the world, promote self-help, encourage public-private partnership, include strong monitoring and evaluation of projects, and focus on schools. For a copy of the State Department's Report, see www.state.gov/g/oes/water.

Currently 1.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people are without basic sanitation. Diseases related to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation cause over 80 percent of illnesses in the developing world and kill between 2 and 5 million people each year. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation serves as a catalyst for better public health, education, poverty reduction, and gender equality. It also helps bring stability to areas of conflict and crisis where citizens are disenfranchised and desperate for the most basic necessities.

Water Advocates is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing American support for worldwide access to safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water and adequate sanitation. For more information: www.wateradvocates.org.

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