Lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation is one of the most pressing problems facing the developing world today. These two interrelated requirements are fundamental to healthy lives and prosperous communities, yet nearly 783 million people world-wide do not have access to clean drinking water, and more than 2.5 billion people do not have access to safe sanitation for adequate disposal of human waste.
The consequences of inadequate access to water and sanitation are tremendous – diarrhea-related illness and disease, poor quality of life, public and environmental health problems, and low economic growth, but also factors that are far harder to quantify, like dignity and security. Nearly two million people die from diarrhea each year, many of them children under the age of five, living in the developing world. As the global population continues to shift toward urban areas, the challenge of ensuring access to water and sanitation is only expected to become more complex.
India is a case in point. Although the booming economy of the past decade has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty, rapid urbanization and an inadequate water delivery system and sanitation infrastructure are hindering further development. Thus, sanitation and clean water are the Government of India’s top developmental priority.
When President Barack Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Washington in early October, they signed an agreement that will help bring clean water and sanitation services to all Indians. Consequently, in early November, U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, Administrator Rajiv Shah announced a new financial commitment of up to $20 million to support water and sanitation efforts in India, subject to the availability of funds.
Shah also announced a new Urban Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, or WASH, Knowledge Partnership with the Indian Ministry of Urban Development. Under the partnership, the United States and India, in cooperation with other key partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will share expertise and global best practices, and demonstrate innovative and scalable models in urban water and sanitation. Shah also announced USAID support for a new multi-stakeholder coalition that will catalyze a nationwide movement around healthy WASH behaviors.
"Together," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, “we are working to unlock opportunity for India's most vulnerable people and pioneer solutions that will help end extreme poverty across the globe."