2010 World Water Day

By Bryan Schaaf on Monday, March 22, 2010.

March 22 is World Water Day.  Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water.  We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it.  We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it.  We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities.  Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health.  One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis. 

 

The first World Water Day was held in 1993.  Some progress has been made since then.  According to a UNICEF/WHO report on global water and sanitation, 1.3 billion more people have access to improved sanitation than 1990.  However, an estimated 1.1 billion people still defecate outdoors, with eight out of 10 of them living in 10 countries."  Some other water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) statistics below:

 

-Around 90 percent of diarrhea cases, which kill some 2.2 million people every year, are caused by unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene.

 

-Over 50 percent of malnutrition cases globally are associated with diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections.

 

-Over half the world's hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from illnesses linked to contaminated water.

 

-Almost 900 million people lack access to safe drinking water, and an estimated 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. 

 

-Ninety percent of the wastewater discharged daily in developing countries is untreated. Eighty percent of all marine pollution originates on land – most of it wastewater - damaging coral reefs and fishing grounds. 

 

-People in developed countries generate five times more wastewater per person than those in developing countries, but treat over 90 percent of their wastewater, compared to only a few percent in developing countries.

 

-Agriculture accounts for 70 to 90 percent of all water consumed, mainly for irrigation, but large amounts return to rivers as run-off; nearly half of all organic matter in wastewater comes from agriculture.

 

According to U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon, more people die from unsafe water each year than from all violence including war. Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease - 1.8 million children younger than five years each year.  This alarming figure is from a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which also states millions of tons of solid waste are being flushed into water systems every day, spreading disease.  The UNEP report documents the detrimental health effects caused by contaminated water. According to the report, "diarrhea, mostly from dirty water, kills around 2.2 million people a year...and over half the world's hospital beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses linked with contaminated water,'" the news service writes.

 

Ban Ki Moon also highlighted the role of pollution and climate change, stating “Day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste into the world’s water systems…clean water has become scarce and will become even scarcer with the onset of climate change."  Ban called for a greater focus on water-related issues to achieve internationally the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – an agenda for poverty reduction agreed to by world leaders in 2000 and concluding in 2015. 

 

Water and sanitation are key to a healthy and productive society.  For every US$ 1 invested in water and sanitation, there is a projected US$3-US$34 economic development return. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “It may seem like an overwhelming challenge but there are enough solutions where human ingenuity allied to technology and investments in nature’s purification systems – such as wetlands, forests and mangroves – can deliver clean water for a healthy world.” 

 

The World Water Day 2010 coalition will kick off two days of activities in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 22 including a day of advocacy on Tuesday, March 23.  Supporting partners include: Action Against Hunger, AED, Africare, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, charity: water, Earth Day Network, Global Water, Global Water Challenge, H2O for Life, InterAction, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Millennium Water Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, ONE, PATH, P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, Project Concern International, PSI, US Coalition for Child Survival, WaterAid, Water.org, Water Advocates, Water and Sanitation Program, Water For People, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and World Vision.

 

There are many ways you can get involved.  Some ideas from the World Water Day website are copied below:

 

First, Participate in World Water Day lobbying activities: Meet with Congressional offices on March 23rd in Washington DC and let them know that we need greater U.S. leadership on access to drinking water and sanitation for the world’s poor.  Join supporters from across the country on March 23rd to call on Congress to increase support for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene programs that save lives and lift countless people out of poverty. Lack of access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education pose a major threat to human health. More than 4,000 children die each day as a result of diarrheal disease directly caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. WASH programs are an extremely cost effective way of preventing these deaths and improving the overall health and productivity of millions of people worldwide.

 

Meet with Congressional offices on March 23rd and let them know that we need greater U.S. leadership on this crucial issue. Be a voice for the nearly 1 billion people in the developing world who lack access to clean drinking water and the 2.5 who lack basic sanitation. World Water Day reps will provide you with the information and tools you need to be a good advocate.  Advocacy day begins with a morning training session open to all who care about water, sanitation, and hygiene.

 

In the afternoon, you and other WASH supporters will meet with Congressional offices, seeking additional support for international WASH programs and funding. The day will also feature an event on Capitol Hill with exhibitions on successful WASH programs from around the world. This will provide you an opportunity to see the great work of a variety of organizations working on WASH issues.  In this exhibition space, there will also be a lunchtime briefing for Members of Congress, their staff, you and other advocates, and the general public. At the briefing, experts will discuss critical issues related to WASH and its impacts on people’s health.  Can't make it?  Remember that you can be an advocate for water issues year round.

 

Second, Join the Queue and Make a Stand for Sanitation & Water: Be part of the global action to make a stand for sanitation and water on World Water Day by joining the World’s Longest Toilet Queue on Capitol Hill. Join a Guinness World Record attempt – and help solve a global crisis at the same time.  Come to Capitol Hill at 1pm (exact location on attached map) and be part of the global action to make a stand for sanitation and water. Students, teachers, educators, politicians and celebrities will be on hand to join you in line!  Organizers will provide the photographer, the toilets and the Queue (as well as music, games and refreshments!) So put it on your calendar. Spend your lunch break on March 23rd to demand action to save lives! Be a voice for the poor and vulnerable around the world who lack access to the basic necessities of water and sanitation.

 

Third, Write your Representative and urge stronger support of WASH efforts.  You can find contact information for elected officials in your state and district here

 

Fourth, Use your social networks to spread the word about water and sanitation.  You can use new media such as Facebook or Twitter or you can spread the world through your place of worship, office, Rotary Club, or community organizations.

 

Fifth, Raise money.  Learn more at the Global WASH Action Atlas, which includes projects in Haiti.

 

Sixth, Let your voice be heard.  Enter the World Water Day writing contest sponsored by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Helium.com The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is partnering with Helium to get your voice heard on the most pressing issues of the day. We want to know your thoughts on questions raised by Pulitzer Center-sponsored reporting projects around the globe – and the winning essays will be showcased on the Pulitzer Center’s website and on Helium. Winning writers will also receive a Pulitzer Center Global Issues/Citizen Voices Award.

 

When selecting the winner from the top 10 ranked entries on Helium, the Pulitzer Center especially values vivid, well-articulated essays that reflect unusual insight, a clear point of view and, where appropriate, original reporting. Anything fictionalized or not based on the writer’s own observations should be clearly marked as such in the body of the text. The deadline for the World Water Day Writing Contest is Wednesday March 31. The Pulitzer Center Global Issues/Citizen Voices Award in this contest will be announced on Friday April 9.  The question to be addressed is “Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation claims 4,500 lives a day. What should we do about it?” For global background, take a look at the National Geographic Special on water issues around the world.

 

Even before the earthquake, a lack of clean water was arguably public health threat number one.  It was also a burden on women and children who are disproportionately responsible for collecting it.  As a result of the earthquake, the situation is now more serious in Port au Prince and its environs and will become more so as the rainy season begins.  Water and sanitation systems outside of Port au Prince have been strained by the 600,000 displaced who are staying with friends and families in the countryside and in secondary cities.  WASH will require long term attention, committment, and resources to address - it will also require leadership from the Haitian government, which has a responsibility to deliver affordable basic services, particularly to those who need them most.  Prior to the earthquake, those who could least afford water often were charged the most for it.  This must change.

 

You can learn more on the websites of organizations promoting WASH in Port au Prince and elsewhere.  This includes International Action, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam International, The United Nations Childrens' Fund (UNICEF), ACF, ACTED, CARE, Concern, the International Rescue Committee, The World Health Organization, and Population Services International.  It also includes donors active in promoting WASH in Haiti such as USAID and DFID and Haitian government agencies such as Direction Nationale de l'Eau Potable et Assainissement (DINEPA).  You can read updates and see contact lists for all WASH Haiti EQ responders here. Water.org also has Haiti related information.

 

Please feel free to post your thoughts on/plans for the 2010 World Water Day in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Bryan

Help wells up to solve Haitian Water Problem (4/25/2010)

The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Melissa Dribben
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Three weeks after he nearly died of typhoid, Macelin Pajour rested with his mother in the flimsy shelter that since the earthquake has been their home. The thin flowered bedsheet tied to wooden poles filtered the sun but provided little relief from the midday heat. Macelin, 12, sat on a kindergartner's wooden chair. His T-shirt advertising one of the city's cell-phone companies hung loosely from the wire hanger of his bony shoulders and nearly reached his knotty knees. At his feet, a toy gecko lay on its side in the dirt. Speaking barely above a whisper, he described how he got sick. "I had a bad stomachache," he said in Creole. "My head hurt."
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The simplicity of his symptoms matched their elemental cause. Like millions of poor children around the world, he'd been drinking water contaminated with bacteria from sewage. Port-au-Prince has never had a sewage-treatment facility. At best, 25 percent of residents received clean water piped in from the city. Most people buy their water from private vendors. What little infrastructure existed was damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. UNICEF estimates that only half of the three million Haitians whose lives were upended Jan. 12 currently have access to clean water.
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Bad water and disease have a dangerously clandestine relationship. The cool drink from a contaminated well may look, smell, and taste perfectly innocent. Often, it takes days or weeks for symptoms to reveal themselves. At first, Macelin's mother, Monette, thought he was merely traumatized by the earthquake that had destroyed their home and his school and killed neighbors and friends all over the city. For three days, she stayed beside him on their bed - a layer of flattened cardboard boxes over a plastic tarp. Unable to cool his fever or coax him to eat, she grew more and more frightened. At night, stumbling in the dark, she carried him to the encampment's edge so he could relieve himself or throw up.
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On the fourth day, someone gave her money to take the now listless boy to the hospital in a crowded tap-tap - an enclosed pickup truck with wooden benches, Haiti's most common public transport. Macelin spent the next week and a half on an IV, receiving antibiotics and fluids. "I thought I was going to die," he said, embarrassed by such a confession. "But then" he rallied. "I was happy because they gave me rice!" By surviving, Macelin beat long odds.
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Each year, diarrhea, primarily caused by bad water, kills 1.8 million people, 90 percent of whom are children under 5, according to the World Health Organization. In Haiti, waterborne illnesses kill one of every 13 children before age 5. Macelin, who looks more like a 7-year-old than a preteen, often drank unsafe water. As a result, he suffered belly problems, which led to malnutrition, which stunted his growth and made him vulnerable to diseases like the typhoid that nearly killed him.
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Monette understood the importance of clean water but could not always afford it. Before the earthquake, the single mother supported her five children on the equivalent of $2 a day as a marchande, a street vendor selling whatever small goods can be found - toothpaste, bouillon cubes, candles. Homeless now and stuck in an encampment in Lilavois 8, on the edge of Port-au-Prince, with 1,075 others, she and her children have been walking half a mile to a public well for the water they need to drink, cook, wash clothes, and bathe. Every sip, every molecule, carries the risk of disease. On March 26, salvation pulled up in a pickup truck. As life-changing events often do, it arrived unexpectedly via a wildly circuitous route. The truck belonged to Water Missions International, a Christian relief organization. WMI had its beginnings in 1998, the year Macelin was born. Honduras had been throttled by a hurricane. Friends working with the relief effort asked George and Molly Greene, who owned an environmental engineering firm in South Carolina, to help. Using parts from a hardware store, Greene and his staff built a simple filtration system.
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Once they became aware of the lack of clean water worldwide, the Greenes sold their business and in 2001 started the nonprofit. Since its founding, WMI has provided purification systems in response to Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Indonesia, the earthquake in China, and the cyclone in Myanmar. It also works in poor countries, using clean-water projects as a foundation for long-term development. Their Haiti program had been faltering for several years when the earthquake struck.
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Suddenly, donations poured in, volunteers stepped up, and 20 systems were being shipped to Port-au-Prince. Contracting with a Mennonite organization that drills wells and other such groups, WMI installed 75 systems in three months in and around the city. The group's mission has reached more than 200,000 Haitians, but things have not always gone smoothly. Getting equipment off the container ships has been a bureaucratic nightmare. The group's headquarters, destroyed in the earthquake, relocated to a basement office at the Visa Lodge, a small hotel near the airport. But without a secure storage area, purification units were getting damaged and parts were going missing. In late March, the operation moved to an expatriate's private property 15 minutes from the city center. Its landscaped gardens, blooming with bougainvillea and mango trees, now store close to 100 hulking purification systems. Each one, completely installed, costs between $10,000 and $20,000.
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The units are made up of two milky white plastic vats, each with a capacity of 275 gallons. Water is pumped through sand and charcoal filters, then a chlorinator, before entering the distribution tank. The systems can purify up to 600 gallons an hour. Church members who raised funds for WMI's Haiti project signed some of the tanks. “There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the
broken heart," wrote one girl from Charleston, S.C. "There is grace, forgiveness, mercy and healing that'll meet you wherever you are. Cry out to Jesus!" She signed it "Caroline age 12," and drew an orange flower on a green stem with two elf-eared leaves.
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Andre Mergenthaler lined up three glasses of water and a petri dish and waited for the videographer's cue. "Go ahead," the cameraman nodded, and the handsome young German engineer began a presentation he'd given more times than he could remember. "It's important to know that clear water is not necessarily clean water," he said, picking up a glass. "Sample 1. You see that? Mosquito larvae." The camera zoomed in on black threads wriggling in the clear water. "This water may also be contaminated with bacteria from fecal matter. This is why we need to explain to people that chlorine is necessary." Mergenthaler raised a second glass. The water resembled weak tea. "This is really nasty water," he said. "People all over the world drink it. Millions all over the world die from it. Not the next day." He toasted the air with the last glass. "Sample 3 is clean water. Ready to drink."
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The documentary was commissioned by a major donor who wants to spread the word about the group's work. It is also intended to spread the word of Christ."Christ said if you drink water of the well, you will be thirsty again. But if you drink of the water of life, you'll never thirst," explained Rusty Smith, a Philadelphia businessman who recently spent a month with WMI in Haiti. Unlike Mergenthaler, Smith, 62, had no engineering background. He grew up in Havertown and after college joined his father's business manufacturing corrugated boxes.
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As he neared retirement, Smith and his wife, Robin, grew more involved with their Christian faith. They helped establish a school and shelter for homeless women and children in West Philadelphia. During a visit to South Carolina, the Smiths attended a church service. On the bulletin board, they saw a flier from WMI seeking volunteers for short-term missions abroad. The Smiths spent the next Sunday afternoon with the founder's son and came away changed. "We thought, like most Americans, that you go to the tap, there's always enough and you never worry about disease," said Smith. He and his wife committed themselves to WMI's mission. He gave himself a crash course in water engineering and third-world development. Within a year, he had initiated a program in Kenya and was helping to coordinate the East African operation. That is how he met Mergenthaler, a volunteer who later joined the mission's staff.
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Now, the two men found themselves together again, this time in the crumbled, trash-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince. The day began with a devotion. Seventeen staff members and volunteers crowded into WMI's air-conditioned basement office. In one corner, a Christmas tree necklaced with red and gold organza ribbons leaned against the wall. Standing in front of a "to-do" list on the wall, Mergenthaler opened a Bible and read from Romans 15. The verse teaches that "everybody gets his calling from one spirit," he said. Rather than allowing interpersonal differences to distract and divide, teams should work together to help the weak.
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Before sunset, the message would prove prophetic. Long before the earthquake, Haiti was known as "the Republic of NGOs." More than 10,000 groups were dispensing food, training workers, caring for orphans, evangelizing, advising, planting trees, treating the sick, and purifying water. Attempts to coordinate the nongovernmental organizations had failed.
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The arrival in January of who knows how many emergency relief teams made the task impossible. After the massive response to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, the United Nations adopted a new "cluster" approach, bundling agencies based on their objectives and assigning coordinators to meet, plan,
dispatch workers, and disseminate funds.
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When the earthquake hit Haiti, the cluster handling water, sanitation, and hygiene got to work. By early February, it had registered 142 nonprofits and international aid groups. Representatives were meeting twice weekly to review their progress, and a Web site was continually updated with maps showing how aid was being distributed. WMI works with several groups in the cluster. Before installing a purification system, the staff visits each site to assess the need and see if there is an adequate water source. Calls come in all day, every day about places that need water. At the end of March, WMI got a tip from one of the members of the U.N. cluster about a large tent city located on a soccer field in central Port-au-Prince.
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Mergenthaler set out to find the place. No easy task. The labyrinth of streets in the capital is a mess, blocked by rubble and traffic, tents where people have made their homes, trash fires, spontaneous markets, and scavenging goats, dogs, and pigs. Driving up one narrow street, he passed a dusty man who seemed to be sleeping on the sidewalk. At the top of the hill, Mergenthaler had to turn around because the road was impassable. On the way back, he saw that the man on the sidewalk had been flipped onto his back. Mergenthaler gasped. "He's dead!" Tissues were stuffed into the corpse's nose and mouth, and his legs stuck out stiffly off the ground. "He probably died of dehydration," said one of Mergenthaler's coworkers. It was a plausible theory. "Can you imagine?" Mergenthaler said. "He was someone's family member and he just disappears. For as long as you live, you hope he's all
right and you never know."
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After wandering for 21/2 hours and stopping half a dozen times for directions, the WMI team finally found the tent city. An ad hoc leadership committee greeted them in a sweltering tent. "There is no pure water," said the chief representative, a local radio journalist. But just outside the tent was a yellow rubber bladder the size of a small swimming pool, framed by cinder blocks. Action Contre La Faim, an international NGO, had supplied the 10,000-liter vessel. "They come to fill it three times a day," said the leader. "But it's not enough." As far as he knew, the water was meant for washing and cooking only. "The water quality is bad."
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Mergenthaler fetched a chlorine kit from his car and dipped a test strip into a water sample. Seconds later, an aqua line appeared. "Oh! That's not bad!" "It's good?" the community leader asked, surprised. "Good," Mergenthaler said. It's drinkable?" "Yes. It's good water." On the way back to the car, Mergenthaler dug through his backpack for a blueberry Pop-Tart, but waited to eat until he had passed boys playing near the tents. (With so little food and water available, out of courtesy aid workers don't eat in public.) One boy held a laminated card bearing Bible verses that a WMI volunteer had given him. Another was wearing a bright purple T-shirt that had weirdly found its way from Philadelphia - it bore the logo of a softball team sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop.
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Although Mergenthaler still planned to contact ACF to see if there was anything his organization could do to help (there wasn't), the mix-up had consumed half a day and several gallons of gas. Still, he wasn't terribly upset. "Everyone is doing assessments," he said. "There's a certain risk of overlap." When told of the incident, Paul Sherlock, senior humanitarian for Oxfam, shrugged. In a situation this dismal in a nation this broken, such confusion is common and inevitable, he said. "The system isn't perfect."
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Dalebrun Esther had a headache. Wincing from pain, the heavyset man with the gravelly voice and stubbled chin had come to work nonetheless, hoping his blood-pressure medicine would kick in. Esther, 45, is the Haitian chemical technician who runs the national office of International Action, an NGO that provides free chlorination systems. He called his staff of nine into his office on a side street in Port-au-Prince to review the day's battle plan. He'd set Black Flag roach killer on a shelf behind him and a Bausch & Lomb microscope on his old metal desk, along with vials of murky water swimming with wormy things. He wore the group's T-shirt - with a drawing of a woman carrying a bucket on her head and below her the
words DLO Pwop, Creole for clean water.
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The group had spent four years installing chlorinating units on all of Port-au-Prince's 140 public water tanks. Only 13 tanks survived the earthquake. Women and children wait for hours each day at neighborhood water kiosks to fill buckets and plastic jerry cans. That water comes from tankers that draw water from the city's wells and purify it by reverse osmosis. (Wealthier Haitians and businesses pay to have the trucks fill their private cisterns.) Immediately after the disaster, International Action used donations to pay private companies to deliver free water to the poor. But since the end of March, the group's leaders had been planning for the future. On this day, several workers were dispatched to repair the city's cracked water pipes. Others went to a factory being retrofitted to manufacture water tanks that will replace broken ones. Along with his brother, Samson, and two plumbers, Esther drove eight miles into the mountains to an orphanage.
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The drive took them up switchback roads, past parched, scarred cliffs, followed by terraced farms, scrappy villages, and the country mansions of the nation's wealthiest citizens. These last were elaborate homes hidden behind high walls, secured by armed men. At the top of a mountain, the truck came to a stop. The air was cool here, scented with pine from the dense woods. The orphanage's sign had
been freshly repainted. A guard unlocked the gate. Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" blasted from loudspeakers. A basketball game was under way. Other kids were break-dancing or playing on swing sets. Nurses rolled wheelchair-bound children into the sun. Founded in 1988 by Our Little Brothers and Sisters, this was home to 350 orphans, many of them abandoned because of their disabilities.
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"Water is always a problem," said Jan Weber, the 32-year-old regional medical coordinator. "We have 30 cisterns on the property, but with so many children, we run out." Three years ago, Esther's group installed chlorinating filters on six tanks serving the dormitories, classrooms, and dining hall. Since the quake, 10 more had gone up. "I was happy to receive those. But then, four weeks ago, they agreed to provide all our houses with filters! This is really a great relief," Weber said.
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While Esther's plumbers climbed a ladder to a rooftop reservoir, Weber demonstrated how children had gotten their drinking water up until now. He marked off 365 paces from a padlocked pump beside a playground to the top of a hill where children, ages 8 to 14, were housed. "The kids had to haul buckets this whole way," he said. Each holds five gallons and weighs about 40 pounds. The plumbers worked for an hour, installing two chlorinators. When they were done, they planted rainbow flags to mark the treated water towers. Weber handed Esther a check for $700, and they agreed on a date for the next installation. (International Action provides the labor, filters, slow-release chlorine tablets, and maintenance, but cannot afford the construction materials required for the remaining four tanks.)
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"For me," Weber said, shaking Esther's thick hand, "to be sure that the water is safe is wonderful." Projects like this ease the burden on Haiti's beleaguered population and save thousands of lives, said Donna Barry, director of policy and advocacy for Partners in Health, one of the most respected NGOs working in the country. "But it's the government's responsibility to fulfill their citizens' human rights. That's why, in developed countries, we have huge public water systems."
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Haiti has been hobbled for centuries. It has suffered a tortured history, chronic, crushing debt, a long legacy of ill treatment by powerful nations, internal chaos, corrupt governments, a rapacious elite, and a stunning succession of natural disasters. But none of this is reason to abandon the Haitian people, said Barry.
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Partners in Health mostly runs hospitals and clinics. "But the more we delve into water and food issues, the more I find it's the same old public-health rhetoric: cheap and simple for poor countries. It's not a good model." Haitians have the same rights to clean water as citizens of wealthy nations do, she reasoned. "We have much better solutions in our countries that we need to share." After the earthquake, public-health experts worried that the country would suffer an even more deadly aftermath. With so many people crowded into tent cities, with insufficient latrines and limited access to clean water, the conditions seemed ideal for a biological apocalypse of cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis. That disaster hasn't happened, at least not yet. Ironically, the country is probably getting more clean water now – for free - than ever before.
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Working with Haitian water authorities, UNICEF has pledged $11.5 million in cash, supplies, staff, and expertise. But without nonprofits on the ground, said Edward Carwardine, UNICEF spokesman in Haiti, "people wouldn't get access to water, sanitation, and information on hygiene. Everyone has a role to play here. What's important is that people work together. In general, that's what's happening here." True, Carwardine said, half the city is still without water. "But just the fact that one million people are getting clean water is quite an achievement."
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Oxfam's Sherlock feels the same, and like many of his colleagues in the international community holds out hope that this misfortune may mark a turning point. "The earthquake has been terrible. But it might actually give Haiti the opportunity to rebuild with the enormous amount of international aid that's been committed. The concern, of course, is will the committed money really end up on the ground?" It had better, he said. "Because when the next calamity occurs, the world will go there and forget Haiti." Mergenthaler stepped out of his truck with his team - a logistics expert from South Carolina, a civil engineer from Honduras, a water-purification technician from Haiti, and an unemployed car salesman from Illinois. Squinting from the sun's glare, he tugged the brim of his faded blue baseball cap and looked around.
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Dozens of children crowded around to see the strange men and their cargo: big plastic cubes encased in shiny metal cages, seven feet high. He waded through the scramble of arms and legs and entered a walkway alongside a concrete house. There, surrounded by a thatch of twigs and leaves, he came upon the well - a hole in the ground as big as a laundry basket. Six inches down, he saw his face reflected in the dark water's silvery surface. The team, aided by volunteers from the tent city, eased the machine off the flatbed and, struggling under its weight, shuffled toward a protected spot in back of the house. Women assigned to feed the community were preparing lunch. When the WMI team arrived, a pot of beans had just started to boil. By the time the system was in place, the beans had thickened to a rich, brown, bubbling stew.
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Kerline Charles, a 40-year-old unemployed nurse, watched the team cut pipes and attach hoses. She would be trained to operate and maintain the machine, then would meet with the leaders of surrounding compounds to teach them how to get drinking water from the taps without damaging the equipment. Charles' 17-year-old daughter, Isabelle, watched from the frail shade of a half-dead tree. "Je deteste le pays," she said. "I hate this country." She dreams of being a diplomat and traveling far away. "Ready?" a technician said, then flipped the switch. The diesel motor growled. A metal cylinder bobbled inside a gauge, and water began to flow through the filters and into the tanks.
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Twenty minutes later, the team tested the chlorine level, then opened a tap. Clear water burst into their faces. Later that afternoon, Charles would visit the tent where Macelin Pajour was resting with his mother to tell them the news.
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"L'eau est bonne." The water is good.

New UN report stresses benefits of greater funding for WASH

IRIN
4/21/2010
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Funding commitments for water and sanitation declined as a share of overall development aid over the past decade despite strong evidence that making the two services available to communities could lower health-care costs, raise school attendance and improve productivity, according to a new United Nations report released today.
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“Neglecting sanitation and drinking water is a strike against progress,” said Maria Neira, UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of public health and environment, at the launch of the UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report in Washington. “Without it, communities and countries will lose the battle against poverty and ill-health,” said.
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The report noted that health, education, transport, energy and agriculture received greater donor funding than water and sanitation between 1997 and 2008. It stressed that improved access to sanitation and water produces economic benefits that range from $3 to $34 per dollar invested, increasing a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by an estimated two to seven per cent.
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“Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and the lack of hygiene claim the lives of an estimated 2.2 million children under the age of five every year. Of these deaths, 1.5 million are due to diarrhoea, the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease,” said Dr. Neira. “The impact of diarrhoeal disease in children under 15 is greater than the combined impact of HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis,” she added.
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The findings of the report will be presented at the first annual High Level Meeting of Sanitation and Water for All, which will be hosted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Washington on Friday.
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The meeting will provide a forum for finance ministers from developing countries and their counterparts in water and sanitation ministries, and representatives from donor countries to gain greater understanding of the linkages between water, sanitation and economic growth to commit appropriate resources and promote mutual accountability, partnership and shared responsibility.

World Bank Report Recommends Ways to Improve Access to Water

4/4/2010
The New York Times
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
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Ethiopia, Haiti and Niger are facing the world’s worst water shortages, but 700 million people in 43 countries are under “water stress,” according to a new report released by the World Bank last month.
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Almost a third of all the bank’s projects in recent history have been water-related, and a total of $54 billion was spent financing them, the report said. Some, of course, have been controversial, since dams, irrigation projects, flood prevention and watershed-management projects often benefit one group at the expense of others. Also, many projects fail, once built, because the host country is not wealthy or sophisticated enough to maintain them.
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Most countries with severe water problems are also so poor that they are “not creditworthy enough to borrow their way out of water crisis,” the report noted. It detailed several recommendations from the bank’s independent evaluation group for factors to consider in new project proposals.
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First, the bank should look for plans that keep water flowing to the most people. It should also “manage the demand” — many projects it supports have raised prices, imposed quotas and tried to stop theft of water, but there has been little success in getting projects to pay for themselves.
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It should look for projects that preserve groundwater and restore the environment — although, the report noted, it is not necessary to get landscape back into a pristine state to get major benefits. And it should pay more attention to low-cost plans for toilets and waste disposal to stop sewage from fouling drinking water. Only 10 percent of all bank projects have had health as an objective, the report said.

Water Documentary: Running Dry

http://www.runningdry.org/world.html
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“Running Dry” is a comprehensive public information/education project, established to raise awareness regarding the worsening global humanitarian water crisis. The project’s centerpieces are two explosive and enlightening in-depth documentaries, “Running Dry” and “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?”

We don't honor God when 4,500 children die every day

By Rabbi Jack Bemporad
Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski
Imam Syed Rafiq Naqvi
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
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Safe water is the under-recognized -- and perhaps most solvable -- global humanitarian crisis of immense proportion. One child dies every 15 seconds, every single day, from water-related illnesses. Almost a billion people do not have access to safe water and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation. At any one time, half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-borne diseases. It kills more people than malaria, AIDS, and TB combined with a catastrophic result: 2 million, mostly preventable deaths, every year. Yes, preventable.
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It is a solvable problem and there is secular and nonsecular water development field work happening around the world. But water projects need dramatically ramped up and far wider, sustained support. What's missing is not the technology, but the sense of urgency and leadership. Water is a shared symbol among every world religion. As faith leaders, we can - no, we must -- step up to the plate. We are issuing that call. Water is the forgotten keystone to solving so many of the world's ills --
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Hunger: 50% of malnutrition is due to a lack of safe water
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Disease: 80% of disease is due to a lack of sanitation
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Malaria: Poor sanitation increases breeding in malaria-carrying mosquitoes
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HIV/AIDS: Patients already susceptible to disease must take anti-retroviral drugs with unsafe water
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Women's Burden: Women's bodies break down hauling 40+ pound water jugs miles every day; girls are denied education when forced to leave school to help their mothers or when there is no gender appropriate sanitation facilities to take care of their personal needs
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Poverty: Sickness prevents productivity
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War and Peace: the potential for conflict and more importantly, the potential for negotiated peace.
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We don't honor God by allowing 4,500 children to die every day. All faiths can unite and mobilize their megaphones, from pulpit to pew, around water. We ask that you add your powerful voice, as a faith leader, to underscore the urgency of this fundamental global crisis.
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On March 22, a high profile consortium of leaders, including Secretary of State Clinton, NGOs, philanthropists, corporations, universities and media will gather at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington D.C. for UN World Water Day. Now, as "WASH" (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) NGOs coordinate advocacy efforts and gain global steam it's time that religious leaders step up with the following goals:
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Ø Declare a Global Interfaith Water movement making 2011 the Year of Water
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Ø Raise awareness among global faith leaders
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Ø Set the goal of having every congregation in the U.S. support one sustainable water development field project
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Ø Spotlight regions of particularly urgent needs in terms of clean water and sanitation
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Ø Meet with U.S. and global leaders to help focus attention on water as a keystone to solving other world crises
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We ask that you join us in a coordinated interfaith effort that can deeply impact hundreds of millions of lives, and be a monumental example of interfaith cooperation at its best. Together, we can accomplish greatness by making water a source of life and health, for all. Go here for more information.
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Signatures:
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Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Executive Director, Center for Interreligious Understanding
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The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
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The Most Reverend Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Church of America and past president of the National Council of Churches
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Imam Syed Rafiq Naqvi, Chairman, Islamic Information Center
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Angelica Berrie, Chairman, Center for Interreligious Understanding
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Marshall Breger, Professor of Law, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America
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Gary Krupp, Founder, Pave the Way Foundation
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Professor Solomon Katz, Trustee, Parliament of the World's Religions
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Robert A. Destro, Professor of Law & Director Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion, The Catholic University of America

When is water safe? (IRIN - 3/22/2010)

By Masooma Mohammadi
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Diarrhoea-inducing waterborne microbes often go undetected in parts of the world with the highest rate of under-five deaths from gastrointestinal infection. According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), lack of water safety regulations, inter-ministerial coordination and surveillance can paint a deceptively benign portrait of water quality.
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"There are different interpretations of water safety among the line ministries [working on water issues], which makes it hard to draw a conclusion about water quality," Rolf Luyendijk, senior statistician for water and sanitation at UNICEF, told IRIN. Taps, boreholes, covered wells or springs, as well as rainwater, are considered "improved" and “safe” water sources but they do not guarantee safe drinking water, he said.
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"Water from a dug well may not meet microbiological standards and may still be deadly," he told IRIN. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), contaminated water contributes to more than two million deaths from diarrhoea each year, plus millions of other cases of waterborne diseases.
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In 2004, UNICEF and WHO piloted rapid water assessments in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Tajikistan, which showed that only piped came close to meeting international guidelines. Other water sources labelled as "improved" were about half-way compliant with the international guidelines.
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Luyendijk told IRIN ministries working on water and sanitation need to improve data coordination and water quality surveillance to find out if investments are reaching the neediest. "There is an enormous amount of money invested in boosting access [to safe water and sanitation] and those improvements have not reached the poorest quintile [20 percent]," he said.
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While 84 percent of people living in low-income countries are reported to use improved water sources, eight out of 10 people without access live in rural areas, according to the latest WHO-UNICEF report on water and sanitation coverage. Luyendijk cautioned that data should never lead to complacence, citing Uganda as an example.
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Conventions on clean water: Right to Water of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses Agenda 21, Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources
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"The country has made tremendous improvements, boosting coverage [to improved water sources] in rural areas from 40 to 60 percent between 1990 and 2006. But in absolute numbers, [because of population growth] there are 500,000 more people [in rural areas] without access to safe drinking water,” he said. “Relative improvements do not do away with absolute suffering. There is always more we can do. " WHO recommends countries develop water safety plans and regulatory agencies to ensure not only safe water access but also water safety.
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The UN Millennium Development Goal for water requires the reduction by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 but there are no binding global agreements on water safety. WHO has issued guidelines, which governments are encouraged to apply based on their means. "What good is data without action?" said Luyendijk. "We monitor for action. To know is to act upon... People cannot live without water. But they can also die because of it."

Remarks on World Water Day by Hillary Clinton (3/22/2010)

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
National Geographic Society
Washington, DC
March 22, 2010
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Thank you. Thank you very much. It is always a great pleasure to be here at the National Geographic Society, one of the treasures not only of Washington but of our country. And I thank Gil Grosvenor and everyone associated with the Society. I appreciate Maria Otero for her introduction. The water advocates who are gathered here today, thank you for your work.
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And I want to recognize the other speakers who are participating, including the congressman. You know Earl is a champion of quality of life issues, and I think when he started in the Congress he was a little bit of a lonely voice. But gradually, people have seen the connections between a lot of the big issues of the day that take up the headlines and the day-to-day concerns of how people live, how they interact, how they commute. I want to tell Earl that I just inaugurated the showers for bikers at the State Department – (applause) – and I thought of you because the bikers gave me one of your bicycle signals. So we’re making progress, slowly but surely.
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I know that you heard from my friend, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who serves as the Goodwill Ambassador for Water in Africa, and has already addressed you via video. And I also want to be sure to recognize the diplomatic community that is here today. The head of our Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes – thank you, Daniel. Maybe people haven’t met you yet, but I want everyone to do so. (Applause.)
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And I just appreciate coming today because I can’t think of a better way to mark World Water Day and I can’t think of a better person to be the MC than Hattie Babbitt. Hattie’s been a friend of mine for a long time and has been involved in so many important issues, and I’m so pleased to see her today.
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Water – it kind of goes without saying – certainly deserves the attention it’s receiving today. Because in many ways, it does define our blue planet. It’s critical to almost every aspect of human endeavor, from agriculture, to industry, to energy. Like the air we breathe, it is vital to the health of individuals and communities. And both literally and figuratively, water represents the wellspring of life on earth. Now, of course, water can also bring devastation. Floods and droughts now touch more people than all other natural disasters combined. And inadequate access to water supply, sanitation, and hygiene cause the deaths of more than 1.5 million children each year. Water challenges are most obvious in developing nations, but they affect every country on earth. And they transcend political boundaries. As water becomes increasingly scarce, it may become a potential catalyst for conflict among – and within – countries.
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As I speak today, a young family in North Dakota is huddled together praying that the Red River won’t overflow its banks again and destroy their home. A farmer in Southern China is realizing that amid the worst drought in 60 years, he just may not be able to plant his crops this Spring. A mother living in Ethiopia is carrying a jerry can of water back to her family, hoping she won’t be attacked along the way. Water issues are an urgent concern every day of every year for individuals, communities, and countries around the world.
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And as pressing as water issues are now, they will become even more important in the near future. Experts predict – and many of you are in this audience who are experts – that by 2025, just 15 years from now, nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries will be water-stressed. Many sources of freshwater will be under additional strain from climate change and population growth. And 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity – the point at which a lack of water threatens social and economic development.
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But water challenges are not an inevitable cause of crisis. With the right policies and priorities, and with the will, many countries in arid climates are managing water resources effectively. In the process, they are delivering tangible results for their people, encouraging sustainable economic development, and promoting stability across their regions.
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Access to reliable supplies of clean water is a matter of human security. It’s also a matter of national security. And that’s why President Obama and I recognize that water issues are integral to the success of many of our major foreign policy initiatives. The United States is making major investments to combat preventable diseases and improve child survival through our Global Health Initiative. Increasing access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene will help save lives that are now being lost to preventable diseases.
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Seventy percent of the world’s water use is devoted to agriculture, and the outcome of our work to promote global food security depends in part on having a successful water policy and sound water management. Floods and droughts can wipe out crops, and decimate economies that depend on agriculture.
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We are also working to empower women around the world, because depending upon which continent we’re talking about, the average is 60 percent of the farmers are women. In addition to that, women who gain access to sanitation, who are freed from the burden of walking for hours each day just to locate and carry water, will find it easier to invest time and energy in their families and communities.
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The stability of young governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations depends in part on their ability to provide their people with access to water and sanitation. A lack of water, sanitation, and irrigation we know leads to economic decline, and even can lead to unrest and instability.
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Part of being serious about dealing with and adapting to climate change is about being serious about water. As the earth warms, rainfall patterns can shift, bringing new patterns of drought and flooding. And we need to get out in front of that problem.
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Successful engagement on water can also affect how our country is perceived in the world. We spend a lot of time working on issues such as terrorism and arms control and nuclear proliferation. These are obviously important topics that deserve our attention. But the reality is that they are not problems most people deal with on a day-to-day basis. Water is different. When we demonstrate our concern for the issue, it speaks to individuals on a whole different level. Everyone knows sensation of thirst firsthand. We all have daily personal experience that we can think about and relate to, even if the nature and magnitude of that experience varies widely. Our ability to satisfy our need for water depends on our location and our circumstances. But as a matter of biological necessity, access to safe, sustainable supplies of water is a priority for everyone on the planet.
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In the United States, water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time. It’s not every day you find an issue where effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, feed the hungry, empower women, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares, cares about you and your welfare. Water is that issue.
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Now, we know that this challenge is much too large for the United States – or any one nation – to address alone. Even if all of the world’s development aid were directed toward water and sanitation efforts, the resources still wouldn’t be enough to meet the needs of developing countries. So we need to work together to leverage the efforts of other nations, the international community, and partners in the nonprofit and private sectors. Today, I want to discuss five streams – that’s my speechwriter (laughter) – five streams – who’s wonderful, by the way – five streams of action that make up our approach to water issues.
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First, we need to build capacity at the local, national, and regional levels. Countries and communities must take the lead in securing their own water futures. And, particularly in areas where we have serious, committed partners, we should work to expand their ability to address water challenges.
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We are looking at ways to work with international partners to support the development and implementation of country-led water and sanitation plans. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is supporting countries that are committed to making needed reforms, improving governance, and taking on the tough development challenges that surround the issue of water. USAID is working at a grassroots level and with national ministries to improve governance and capacity-building.
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We need to strengthen regional cooperative mechanisms for managing water resources that transcend national boundaries. Now, we usually look at maps and see political units. But in order to meet the challenge presented by water security, we need to start viewing the water in terms of natural water boundaries such as watersheds, river basins, and aquifers. There are more than 260 river basins in the world that flow through different nations. We cannot address the water challenges of these countries in isolation. We should view every regional watershed or aquifer as an opportunity for stronger international cooperation.
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Done right, there could be huge political and economic benefits from regional water diplomacy. The Nile River basin, for example, is home to 180 million people spread throughout ten East African countries. Many of these nations are mired in poverty, and seven of them have experienced recent conflicts. But experts estimate that cooperative management of the basin’s water resources could increase economic growth – increase it enough to pull many of these countries out of poverty and provide a foundation for greater regional stability.
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We are also looking to take advantage of regional platforms, such as the African Ministers Council on Water and the soon-to-be-established Center of Excellence on Water in the Middle East. We hope these programs will serve as hubs for connecting local countries to each other, and also to universities, laboratories, and research groups worldwide that share an interest in water issues.
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Now, of course, the National Geographic is ahead of all of us, as always, with this wonderful special issue on Water: Our Thirsty World. And one of their handy maps that I used to have to study all the time when I was in school, has a World of Rivers, a new mapping of every river system, really giving life to what it is we are proposing.
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Second, we need to elevate our diplomatic efforts and we need to better coordinate them. More than 24 UN agencies and other intergovernmental bodies are engaged on water issues. And multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, and other international financial institutions have acquired deep experience working on water challenges. But the work of these bodies has often suffered from a lack of coordination and high-level attention. The joint G8-Africa Leader’s Statement on Water at the last G8 Summit in L’Aquila sent a message that water issues are a priority for the international community. And we are committed to following through on that by elevating water issues within intergovernmental organizations, the international financial institutions, and other regional and global bodies.
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Water is actually a test case for preventive diplomacy. Historically, many long-term global challenges – including water – have been left to fester for years until they grew so serious that they could no longer be ignored. If we can rally the world to address the water issue now, we can take early corrective action, and get ahead of the challenges that await us. And in doing so, we can establish a positive precedent for early action to address other serious issues of global concern.
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The third element of our water strategy is mobilizing financial support. Managing water issues requires resources. And in some cases, the United States will be able to provide assistance. We’ve seen how relatively small grants can have a vast impact on water security. Ten years ago in Ecuador, USAID began several years of technical assistance to support the establishment of a water trust fund for the future protection of Quito’s watershed. Today, thanks to the work of many partners, that fund has grown to $6 million; it provides $800,000 a year for conservation efforts. For the American people – and for the people of Ecuador – that represents a spectacular return on our investment. Other U.S. grants are targeted to support hygiene and sanitation projects or water quality improvements that involve small-scale hardware such as household water purification technology. And we are making critical investments in programs that promote behavior that contributes to good sanitation and hygiene.
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In some instances, we are also providing assistance for larger infrastructure projects as well. In Jordan, USAID has helped build a desalination plant, a wastewater treatment facility, and water supply and sanitation systems that serve more than two million people. We are backing similar large-scale projects in several countries that are receiving assistance through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. MCC-supported water programs are improving irrigation systems, rebuilding critical infrastructure, and increasing access to clean water and sanitation. Overall, the MCC has invested $1.3 billion so far in country-led water programs. Now, we won’t be able to provide that type of support everywhere. But we hope that these projects will send a message to governments in developing countries that if they adopt sound policies and serious reforms, the United States will help them deliver sustainable water solutions that benefit their people. And a government’s success in providing water and sanitation services is a leading indicator of its determination to deliver other vital services.
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The United States is also working to strengthen capital markets and provide credit enhancements with the goal of mobilizing resources inside developing countries. In many cases, there is enough capital in developing nations to fund water projects. But the money sits in financial institutions rather than working for the public good. USAID has pioneered the use of innovative tools to manage the risk associated with investing in water and sanitation infrastructure. As a result, we’ve been able to mobilize local capital to help solve water issues. In some cases, they have leveraged U.S. funds at twenty-to-one ratios.
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And also, we are very interested in the not-for-profit organizations like Acumen and others that are helping to create for-profit models in India and elsewhere, which have been proven to be quite successful thus far.
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Fourth, we must harness the power of science and technology. There is no technological silver bullet for dealing with water scarcity, although we have had success with simple solutions such as ceramic filters and chlorine disinfectant. But there are a number of areas where science and technological innovation can make a huge impact, and U.S. Government agencies are on the cutting edge of many global efforts to assess and address water challenges. Researchers working in U.S. agencies have discovered better techniques for disinfecting and storing drinking water, for predicting floods and droughts, and for improving the productivity of water for food and economic growth. We have also seen progress on new technologies for waste water treatment, desalinization, and the use of global information systems. We need to work harder to share this knowledge with the rest of the world.
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For that reason, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to this issue. Beyond the State Department, USAID, and the MCC, we are harnessing the expertise of our technical agencies, the knowledge of the intelligence community, and the best practices from those who have been working on these challenges right here in the United States.
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One example is a joint USAID-NASA initiative to create an earth observation monitoring and visualization system in the Himalayas. The glaciers in that mountain range serve as the water tower of Asia, providing the water supply for more than 1.3 billion people. In cooperation with nearby countries, USAID and NASA are developing a system that will provide a clearer picture of water supply and demand for the region and facilitate efforts to adapt to climate change.
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Just as we are reaching out across the U.S. Government to help deal with these challenges, we also need to leverage the full-range of our relationships beyond government. That’s why the final aspect of our water efforts is broadening the scope of our partnerships. By focusing on our strengths and leveraging our efforts against the work of others, we can deliver results that are greater than the sum of the parts. NGOs and nonprofits, including many of the organizations represented here, already play a vital role as implementers and advocates. Private philanthropic organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Rotary International, are also increasingly engaged on water and sanitation as well.
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The private sector is another area where we need to build stronger partnerships. Some companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have core business interests that are related to water issues and a history of working to improve water standards and efficiency. But even in industries that seem disconnected from water, a focus on the issues can have a significant impact. For example, Intel conserved over three billion gallons of water last year and more than 30 billion gallons worldwide over the last decade.
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We want to identify strategic opportunities for working with private firms, and bring their technical skills and capital to bear in addressing the challenges facing the water sector. At the State Department, we are going to elevate water issues within our Global Partnership Initiatives, and on March 23rd, which is tomorrow, we will be holding the first of what I expect will be many meetings with corporations and foundations to examine how better to address water challenges through public-private partnerships and work together toward long-term collaboration.
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Now, channeling these five streams of action into a mighty river that runs across our entire diplomatic and development agenda will not be easy. But fortunately, we have the right team for the job. I’ve asked Under Secretary Otero and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to lead our work on this issue. Raj is traveling today, or he would be with us.
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But they will work to ensure that we take a comprehensive approach. Regardless of whether we’re working on watershed management, efficiency, production, or sanitation, we need to look at this challenge holistically. Maria and Raj will be responsible for keeping the big picture in mind.
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So as we move forward, they will help us identify what’s working, and what’s not. They’ll help us invest in those approaches that are delivering sustainable, measurable results. And they’ll also enable us to keep a long-term perspective on this challenge. We need to make sure that the work we do on water issues is not just of the moment, but truly does stand the test of time. As we face this challenge, one thing that will endure is the United States’ commitment to water issues. We are in this for the long haul. I am convinced that if we empower communities and countries to meet their own challenges, expand our diplomatic efforts, make sound investments, foster innovation, and build effective partnerships, we can make real progress together and seize this historic opportunity.
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Now, we need to do this for ourselves, but also need to do it for future generations. We see one vision of the world’s water future in places like Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, where the city is in serious jeopardy of running out of ground water in the coming years. But there is also a prospect for a much better future in which we do come together to make the decisions to secure the resources for coming generations. And it’s not only for the benefit of individuals, but it helps to create a future where all of us can be more respectful of our environment, more appreciative of water, which is truly at the core of life; give us a greater appreciation of our common humanity.
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The water that we use today has been circulating through the earth since time began. It must sustain humanity for as long as we live on this earth. In that sense, we didn’t just inherit this resource from our parents; we are truly, as many indigenous cultures remind us, borrowing it from our children. It is my hope that by making water a front-burner issue, a high priority in our national and international dialogues, we can give our children and our children’s-children the future they deserve.
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Many of you are experts. You have given your professional lives to working on behalf of water. I am here to thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done. I know how important it is. Perhaps you don’t see it in the headlines, but often it’s in the trend lines. Often, it’s under the radar. Often, it is one of the root causes of what makes it into the top news broadcasts. So what you’re doing is not only on behalf of water, not even just on behalf of development. It’s on behalf of peace, prosperity, opportunity, security. And we want to be a good partner with each of you and all those who see water as a necessary part of the American foreign policy agenda. I’m excited about what lies ahead, and I look forward to working with you, and I thank you for this opportunity to come and talk before you. (Applause.)

Water Crisis High on Policy Agenda, Clinton Says (3/22/2010)

IPS
By Matthew Berger
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On a rainy morning here Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasised the centrality to U.S. foreign policy of addressing the world's water challenges. "For the United States water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time. It's not every day you find an issue where effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, feed the hungry, empower women, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares," she said.
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The provision of clean water is, according to Clinton, one of the "root causes" of the more immediate and flashier stories that make the headlines and as such presents an interesting policy challenge - and opportunity. "Water is actually a test case for preventive diplomacy" where problems are not left to "fester" but are addressed proactively, she said. "It could establish a precedent for early action." Her speech was one of a deluge of events in Washington scheduled around World Water Day, which has been celebrated on Mar. 22 of each year since the United Nations created it in 1992 to focus attention on water crises and their solutions.
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Eighteen years later, those crises are only becoming more immediate. Glaciers and snow packs in the Himalayas and East Africa are disappearing, as are the rivers and streams into which they feed. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected that 75 to 250 million people in Africa will suffer increased water stress due to the climatic changes by 2020.
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But climate change is only part of the equation. A booming global population, poor sanitation, and unsustainable agricultural and household water use all contribute to strain the water cycle that sustains life on Earth, putting both the quantity and quality of the planet's most important resource in danger. The World Health Organisation says that water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent and that one-fifth of people live in areas where water is physically scarce. Another quarter of the world's population face water shortages due to a lack of infrastructure to transport water from river and aquifers.
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These are not just humanitarian but security matters, Clinton said Wednesday. "And that's why President [Barack] Obama and I recognise that water issues are integral to the success of many of our major foreign policy initiatives." She noted that addressing water shortages and quality is central to ensuring the "stability of young governments in Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations depends in part on their ability to provide their people with access to water and sanitation."
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Among the other specific initiatives that must take water issues into account, Clinton cited the Global Health Initiative, which commits 63 billion dollars over six years to improve children's health and fight preventable diseases in poorer countries, among other health goals. The effects of poor water access or sanitation are well-known. A report from the U.N. Environment Programme released Monday said 1.8 million children under five years old die due to a lack of clean water. The report also said diarrhoea, mostly caused by dirty water, kills about 2.2 million people a year and that over half the world's hospital beds are occupied by those suffering "illnesses linked with contaminated water."
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Clinton also pointed to the administration's efforts to promote food security, saying that "70 percent of the world's water use is devoted to agriculture," and said that addressing water would assist in the U.S.'s efforts to empower women globally. The economic effects of water scarcity most directly impact women and young girls since they are the family members most likely to spend their time collecting and transporting water.
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Taken together, the potential impacts of a lack of clean water place the issue at the heart of many other present and potential crises. Rather than looking at national boundaries, water should be viewed as a regional resource contained by the natural boundaries of aquifers or river basins, Clinton said, adding that better management of some of these river basins could increase people's welfare enough to pull some of them out of poverty.
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And she focused on the key role of partnerships between governments, NGOs, international financial institutions and the private sector. "As pressing as water issues are now they will become even more important in the near future," she said. "By 2025 – just fifteen years from now – nearly two-thirds of the world's countries will be water-stressed…and 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity – the point at which a lack of water threatens social and economic development."
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Clinton spoke as part of an event on safe drinking water and sanitation at the National Geographic Society. Elsewhere in Washington today, roundtable discussions were held at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies to develop new strategies to address water-related issues.
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On Tuesday, advocates will gather in Washington to push the U.S. Congress to adopt sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene and child health programmes as part of the second day of World Water Day events here. On Apr. 23, UNICEF will host the first-ever annual high-level meeting on sanitation and water in Washington, which finance and development ministers from a range of countries are expected to attend.

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