At the end of a year marked by ongoing conflicts, funding shortages, and health epidemics, we have reason to feel renewed hope. On Monday night, Congress came together to unanimously pass the Water for the World Act, a bill that will expand and improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation for the world’s poorest people.
Now, as we wait for the bill to reach President Obama’s desk, we are hopeful that the administration will sign it swiftly to demonstrate that the world’s poor are a priority to the U.S. government.
Currently, 748 million people around the world do not have access to clean water. And, 2.5 billion people – or one in three people – do not have access to something as basic as a toilet.
Tackling the global sanitation crisis is a valuable investment in public health. Doctors Without Borders, a leading medical group, explains that disease outbreaks usually occur in areas where hospitals have poor infection control and limited access to resources such as running water. In West Africa, for example, this lack of access to water and sanitation has made responding to Ebola slower and riskier for everyone involved.
Increased sanitation and access to water helps protect our generation, and our country, from diseases such as Ebola and cholera. And it will help keep children alive by combating stunting and lifelong chronic illnesses. It is a win-win for everyone.
A massive collation of partners including Global Citizen, WaterAid America, WASH Advocates, Millennium Water Alliance, InterAction and World Vision came together in support of the Water for the World Act. Together, with congressional champions Sens. Richard DurbinDick Durbin91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (D-Ill.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.), and Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOverdue progress on costs of trade to workers, firms, farmers and communities Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach MORE (D-Ore.) and Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas), they shined a light on the need to increase access to water and sanitation globally. Members of Congress were joined by key leaders including Reps. Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to advocate tirelessly for the passage of the bill.
This past August, we travelled to India to see new sanitation programs up close. And there we saw firsthand how access to clean water and sanitation can help life an entire community out of extreme poverty. After meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is leading his country on a path to putting a toilet in every household by 2019, it was incredible to see how important something we might take for granted is to someone in need. Clean water and a toilet can change a life.
Last week, this bipartisan bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. And on Monday, the Senate passed it by unanimous consent. Now, it’s up to President Obama to sign it this critical piece of legislation into law.
The Water for the World Act will improve the lives of millions of people by ensuring that funding for water programs gets to the communities with the greatest need. The legislation sets more criteria for the way USAID prioritizes, and reports on, programming around water and sanitation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It also requires more transparency about how safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program choices are being made, and what the impact will be on other sectors: health, safety, and education.
Increasing government efficiency is a core principle of the Water for the World Act. The bill will make better use of existing funds for current WASH programs, and will ensure the greatest impact on communities worldwide. All without spending new money or creating new bureaucracy.
By making significant strides in water and sanitation issues, the United States government is leading the creation of the world that we want: a world without extreme poverty.
Evans is chief executive officer of The Global Poverty Project. Schock has represented Illinois' 18th Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Ways and Means and House Administration committees.