The Center for Strategic and International Studies just released the following report, Enhancing U.S. Leadership on Drinking Water and Sanitation by Katherine E. Bliss.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the report:
In the United States, domestic support for greater investments in projects dedicated to improving global health through addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene issues has gathered momentum in recent years. In 2005 President George W. Bush signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, making water, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) activities a strategic focus of United States foreign assistance. In FY 2008 and FY 2009, Congress appropriated $300 million to support international WSH activities for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. During a period of economic crisis in which some U.S. citizens have questioned the utility of overseas assistance programs and believe the government should focus more attention on domestic concerns, a poll released in May 2009 showed that 61 percent put improving access to safe drinking water at the top of a list of issues Americans believe should be global health priorities for the U.S. government.With the Obama administration’s announcement of a new Global Health Initiative, the time is right for U.S. agencies to assert political leadership in addressing the persistent and significant global health challenges related to water and sanitation. This report focuses on the links among water, sanitation, and the health sector and identifies opportunities for greater U.S. engagement on water and sanitation as global health challenges.
Bliss lists the following key challenges (see pages 8-9 for more detail):
- Lack of access the safe drinking water and sanitation causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, primarily in developing countries.
- The economic opportunity costs associated with water-related disease are significant.
- Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is highly inequitable.
- There are significant geographic disparities with respect to acess to safe drinking water and sanitation.
- The investment needed to meet the MDG dinking water and sanitation target is estimated to be $18B per year.
- Improved hygiene, including hand washing with soap and safe disposal of feces, can help prevent waterborne disease, but making such behaviors sustainable remains challenging.
- Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation has especially negative implications for women and girls.
- Climate change will negatively affect water quality and contribute to outbreaks of waterborne disease.
- Urbanization presents special challenges with respect to water quality and sanitation service provision.
- Chemical contamination pollutes ground and surface water with toxins harmful to human health.
- In conflict settings or in the aftermath of natural disaster, the potential for outbreaks of waterborne disease is significant.
Bliss lists and describes a number of problems and makes recommendations, including these:
- Appointment of a high-level State department administrator to coordinate USA work.
- Support by the USA for the appointment of a dynamic, high-level advocate for global safe drinking water, sanitation and health (WSH) at the UN.
- Better integration of the DoD and the MCC into interagency discussions.
- Incorporation of WSH initiatives into USA global health programs.
Why DoD? They get the connection between WSH and civil unrest, conflict, instability and threats to the USA’s security.
Great report; Bliss pulls no punches. It’s succinct and won’t take you long to read.
We can do better at this stuff.
“Globilization in its current form cannot deliver the benefits expected of it. Civil society, particularly in developing countries, must ensure that it does.” — Martin Khor, Director, Third World Network