• To Assist Africa in Sanitation

    BZacheaus Somorin

    It has been revealed that almost 2 billion people across the world do not have access to  safe water – with a larger percentage being in Africa.

    Aaron Salzberg, Special Coordinator for Water Resources at the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science said this recently during a chat with journalists across Africa monitored in Lagos.

    “I think many of you already know the global water challenge.  While we have made some progress, today, somewhere between 1.5 and 2 billion people still lack access to water that is safe to drink.  More than 2 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.  And the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation is particularly high in Africa, and particularly in poor and rural populations”, he said.

    He pointed out that lack of safe water, sanitation, and basic hygiene remains one of the leading causes of death in children under five, and a major source of both physical and cognitive stunting which can have a major impact on development outcomes.

    “Many countries throughout the world remain water insecure, he said, pointing out that the affected population “remain at risk of shortages of water, lack of water for drinking, water for food, for industrial use, or are at risk of floods and other water related natural disasters”.

    “Climate change, of course, is exacerbating many of these challenges.  This water insecurity is becoming a growing impediment to economic growth, and an increasing source of tension between communities and countries.
    The United States is working globally to improve water security.  Simply put, what this means is that people have sustainable supplies of water of sufficient quantity and quality to meet their needs, without living in fear of floods and droughts.  This means increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improving water resources management, and promoting cooperation on shared waters”, he added.

    He said this is done through a number of ways: capacity building, investment in infrastructure, diplomatic engagement, science and technology cooperation, and through partnerships.

    Salzberg stated further that Africa is a particular focus of the United States efforts on drinking water and sanitation; harping that the United States Congress recently passed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act, which made access to drinking water and sanitation a priority for U.S. foreign assistance.

    “The Act requires the President to identify a set of priority countries for U.S. foreign assistance targeted towards drinking water and sanitation, and many African countries are on that list.  So our hope is that we will be working together to make significant progress, particularly in those countries that are furthest behind.

    He stressed that Water for the World Act is actually a second piece of legislation looking at drinking water and sanitation from the United States.

    “It was a predecessor piece of legislation that was passed in 2005 called the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.  And that act was really the first statement by the U.S. Congress, prioritizing access to drinking water and sanitation in U.S. foreign policy and in U.S. foreign assistance.  This new act, which was just passed in 2014, takes the previous legislation a step further, and it asks the President to identify priority countries based on need, and to prioritize U.S. foreign assistance for drinking water and sanitation to those countries”.

    He explained further that the real intent behind the legislation is to see whether or not the United States can make significant progress in those countries that are furthest behind, in providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation to its people.