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Safe Water for the World's Poor


Villagers hold pitchers of drinking water on their head as they walk to get water for their families at the village of Bhattian Jivery in Tharparkar, Pakistan. (FILE)

Law's aims are to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene funding remains a U.S. foreign policy priority.

The Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014, enacted in mid-December by the U.S. Congress, aims to strengthen implementation of the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 by improving the capacity of the U.S. government to implement, monitor and evaluate programs “to provide first-time or improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to the world's poorest on an equitable and sustainable basis,” according to the law’s preamble.

The 2005 law, made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Program. The act was named after the late Senator Paul Simon, who authored a book entitled Tapped Out that warned of the world’s looming clean water crisis.

“We need to make every dollar of our limited foreign aid resources count by addressing problems where we can have a real impact on people’s lives,” said Senator Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a sponsor of the 2014 law.

The law's aims are to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) funding remains a U.S. foreign policy priority; sharpen the criteria for selecting high-priority countries and communities for receiving WASH service; increase integration of WASH programs with other critical interventions, including child survival, global health, food security and nutrition, and gender equality to increase program effectiveness; advance best practices for effective aid, including public-private partnerships; and improve the United States’ strategic approach to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene within the context of broader efforts to promote sound water resources management.

Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), hailed the law’s passage as a boon to U.S. and international efforts to provide clean water and sanitation services to 2.5 billion people who do not have access to basic sanitation and 750 million who lack access to clean water.

The act, Administrator Shah noted,“provides a solid platform for USAID to work toward our goal of a water-secure future, free from the diseases caused from inadequate access to clean water and sanitation, where food is available and affordable, and where populations are less vulnerable to the risks of a changing planet.”

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