Congressional Findings: 21 Reasons to Act (Water for the Poor Act of 2005)

The United States Congress, in its Water for the Poor Act of 2005, empowered a shared vision and, through legislation, provided 21 reasons American citizens and the world should take action.

The bill, cited as the Water for the Poor Act of 2005, listed the following findings (Library of Congress):

(1) Water-related diseases are a human tragedy, killing up to 5 million people annually, preventing millions of people from leading healthy lives, and undermining development efforts.

(2) A child dies an average of every 15 seconds because of lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

(3) In the poorest countries in the world, one out of five children dies from a preventable, water-related disease.

(4) Lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices are directly responsible for the vast majority of diarrheal diseases which kill over 2 million children each year.

(5) At any given time, half of all people in the developing world are suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with inadequate provision of water supply and sanitation services.

(6) Over 1.2 billion people, one in every four people in the developing world, lack access to safe drinking water.

(7) Over 2.4 billion people, two in every five people in the developing world, lack access to basic sanitation services.

(8) Nearly 500 million people are affected by water stress or serious water scarcity. Under current trends, two-thirds of the world's population may be subject to moderate to high water stress by 2025.

(9) Access to safe water and sanitation and improved hygiene are significant factors in controlling the spread of disease in the developing world and positively affecting worker productivity and economic development.

(10) Increasing access to safe water and sanitation advances efforts toward other development objectives, such as fighting poverty and hunger, promoting primary education and gender equality, reducing child mortality, promoting environmental stability, improving the lives of slum dwellers, and strengthening national security.

(11) Providing safe supplies of water and sanitation and hygiene improvements would save millions of lives by reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases, water-based diseases, water-privation diseases, and water-related vector diseases.

(12) Because women and girls in developing countries are often the carriers of water, lack of access to safe water and sanitation disproportionately affects women and limits women's opportunities at education, livelihood, and financial independence.

(13) Every $1 invested in safe water and sanitation would yield an economic return of between $3 and $34, depending on the region.

(14) Developing sustainable financing mechanisms, such as pooling mechanisms and revolving funds, is necessary for the long-term viability of improved water and sanitation services.

(15) The annual level of investment needed to meet the water and sanitation needs of developing countries far exceeds the amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and spending by governments of developing countries, so facilitating and attracting greater public and private investment is essential.

(16) Meeting the water and sanitation needs of the lowest-income developing countries will require an increase in the resources available as grants from donor countries.

(17) The long-term sustainability of improved water and sanitation services can be advanced by promoting community level action and engagement with civil society.

(18) Target 10 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015.

(19) The participants in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, including the United States, agreed to the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development which included an agreement to work to reduce by one-half `the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water,' and `the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation' by 2015.

(20) At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the United States announced the Water for the Poor Initiative, committing $970 million for fiscal years 2003 through 2005 to improve sustainable management of fresh water resources and accelerate and expand international efforts to achieve the goal of cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.

(21) United Nations General Assembly Resolution 58/217 (February 9, 2004) proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2015 the International Decade for Action, `Water for Life', to commence on World Water Day, 22 March 2005' for the purpose of increasing the focus of the international community on water-related issues at all levels and on the implementation of water-related programs and projects.

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