On August 1, Congressman Judge Ted Poe and Congressman Earl Blumenauer reintroduced the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (H.R. 2901). The bill will improve the well-being, education, economic opportunity, safety and dignity of 2.5 billion people in the world who live without a basic latrine every day. By improving USAID’s focus on the poorest of the poor and the countries and communities suffering most from water-related diseases, like undernutrition and pneumonia, Water for the World will save many lives. Most importantly, it will use current funding for water, sanitation and hygiene better.
The Water for the World Act aims to modify the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act (passed in 2005) and improve the efficiency with which the U.S. gives foreign aid for global safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This is especially important with looming budget cuts that are likely to affect these programs.
Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121 and say you want to support efforts already underway to solve the global water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis. Here are some talking points. You can also visit their office or write a letter. Here is a template to get you started.
Investing in WASH is one of the most effective and efficient choices we can make for global child health, nutrition, resource conservation, women’s empowerment, and education. For every $1 invested in WASH, $4 is returned in increased economic productivity. Since lack of access to safe WASH keeps people—mostly women and girls—from school and work, this crisis costs countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia 5% of their Gross Domestic Product each year.
Why do we need legislation on WASH?
WASH programs constitute less than 1% of USAID’s global investments each year; in turn, the International Affairs Budget is less than 1% of the entire federal budget. According to the State Department, in fiscal year 2011, USAID spent approximately 20% of its limited WASH budget in countries where 75% or greater of the population already has access to safe drinking water and sanitation. This is despite requirements in the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 that WASH investments be focused on those most in need of safe drinking water and sanitation, and in those countries where access to WASH can be expected to have the greatest impact on other international development goals, such as improving conditions for people with disabilities and providing women and girls more opportunity to work or go to school instead of collecting water. In fact, the countries in greatest need of WASH—with less than half the population already having access—received less than 60% of USAID’s WASH investments in FY2011.
A new USAID Global Water Strategy is expected to have limited impact on this imbalance. Congressional leadership to enhance accountability to a focus on the poorest, pursuant to the Water for the Poor Act, would not only enable us to do more of the right thing with the funding we already have, but would also meet the demands of the 2012 National Intelligence Estimate on Global Water Security and acknowledge that reduced poverty and ill-health everywhere is good for us here at home.
What will Water for the World do?
Building on the proposed Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2012 (S. 641 & H.R. 3658), new legislation this spring has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. By amending the Water for the Poor Act of 2005 and responding to problems in USAID’s new Global Water Strategy, Water for the World will make better use of existing WASH funds, strengthen accountability for WASH programs already underway, and ensure the greatest impact on communities worldwide without spending new money or creating new bureaucracy. Water for the World will:
- Institutionalize existing capacity in the U.S. government to ensure WASH remains a political priority and expertise is available at USAID and State Department headquarters and in country-level missions to guide strategic implementation of effective and sustainable WASH programs;
- Enhance criteria for choosing high-priority countries to ensure that limited funds are directed to the countries and communities most in need, recognizing evidence that the poorest people benefit most from receiving WASH services;
- Advance best practices of effective aid, such as improved monitoring and evaluation and a focus on leveraging non-Federal partnerships and funds; and
- Improve the strategic approach to international safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and water resource management, by providing smart guidance that builds off USAID’s own strategy, such as requiring transparency in how and why focus countries are selected, the results and challenges of each program implemented, and regular reviews of progress against published metrics.
For more information, contact Cecilia Snyder, 202-293-4003, csnyder@WASHadvocates.org