Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia lose 5-6% of their Gross Domestic Products each year due to lack of safe water and sanitation.

For every $1 spent on WASH programs, $4 are returned in saved health costs and increased economic productivity.

Less than 1% of the US federal budget goes to foreign aid, including safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

December 22, 2014

WaterAid celebrates final passage of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act, following unanimous House passage of the bill, HR 2901, the Senate’s unanimous consent,  and President Obama signing the bill into law on December 19.

“Today is monumental for those of us dedicated to providing safe drinking water, toilets and hygiene promotion to the world’s poorest people, and even more important for the billions of people who are currently waiting for those services,” said Sarina Prabasi, CEO of WaterAid America.

“Water for the World has enjoyed broad bipartisan support and extraordinary commitment from our Congressional champions, especially Congressmen Poe and Blumenauer and Senators Corker and Durbin. We are incredibly grateful that they have joined us in the fight to ensure all people have these basic lifesaving services.”

Over three Sessions of Congress, WaterAid has worked closely with Members of Congress and more than 75 NGOs and faith-based organizations to push for improved focus and impact of the US government’s limited resources for water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Water for the World’s final passage by Congress is the culmination of these tireless efforts and unexpected partnerships, and is a testament to the fact that that water, sanitation and hygiene are basic services that no one should live without.

Congress passes the Water for the World Act

Water for the World will help to address the needs of the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to a toilet and the 750 million people who still live without safe drinking water. By improving the pre-investment analysis undertaken by USAID and safeguarding existing capacity and coordination across the Federal government, Water for the World will help to ensure US support is going where it is needed most.

Providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the poorest and most marginalized will, in turn, help to prevent leading causes of child deaths, stem the spread of deadly outbreaks like Ebola, increase girls’ educational opportunity, reduce household poverty, and advance economic development.

“WaterAid looks forward to working with USAID and the Department of State on implementing the Water for the World Act,” Prabasi continued. “For now, we join our many partners in civil society and in Congress in celebrating this renewed commitment to meeting basic needs for people around the world.”

What the Water for the World Act does

The Water for the World Act is a response to these needed improvements. It focuses on:
  • Ensuring that resources go to the countries and communities most in need of WASH.
  • Ensuring that the US government agencies working on WASH and all other groups work together to make sure that the resources invested achieve long-term impact.
  • Ensuring that WASH programs are included in other critical measures that address child survival, global health, food security and nutrition, and gender equality.
  • Ensuring there is proper review of WASH projects by the US government to increase transparency in reporting and ensure that projects are effective and impactful. 

The history

In 2005, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act was signed into law, for the first time making safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) a US foreign policy priority. In the years since, USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) and the US Department of State have improved millions of lives by providing WASH services to people for the first time, improving taps and toilets that already existed but needed repairs, and working with governments to increase efforts to meet everyone’s human rights to water and sanitation. Meanwhile WaterAid and many other partners have made critical recommendations for improvements in US WASH programs.

Though the original bill was a terrific step forward for promoting and funding critical WASH projects, there needs to be greater clarity on where the money is being invested and how the US government is going to review and evaluate those projects in the long term. That is where Water for the World comes in. The bill ensures that WASH programs henceforth will be more efficient, better monitored, and will provide assistance to the communities most in need.
Congressman Judge Ted Poe speaking in a video address calling for support for the Water for the World Act.