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Congress Considering Bill Making Clean Water And Sanitation Part of Foreign Assistance

A bill that would make access to clean water and sanitation a major objective of US foreign assistance is making its way through Congress. If approved, it will amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Democratic congressman Earl Blumenauer is the author of the bill called “The Senator Paul Simon Water for The Poor Act of 2005.” Congressman Blumenauer spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about it.

The congressman explains why the bill is named after Sen. Simon, saying, “Senator Paul Simon was a visionary, a man of integrity, well respected with his peers on both sides of the aisle. This was an issue that touched him deeply. He had written extensively about it, spoken about it.”

But why should these issues be part of US foreign policy assistance? Congressman Blumenauer replies, “First and foremost, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a major health and economic issue around the world. There are over one point two billion people without access to safe drinking water. The number without access to sanitation is even greater. And as a result, there are millions of people everyday around the world who are sick needlessly. It’s estimated that a child every 15 seconds dies from water borne disease. I can think of no more appropriate cornerstone for United States aid policy than focusing on this terrible killer that saps people’s strength, takes away their life. And even in areas where they have access to water it is a major problem, for example, for women.” It is often the responsibility of women in developing countries to get water for their families, often traveling many miles and carrying heavy loads to do so.

Congressman Blumenauer says the bill has broad bi-partisan support and he expects the full House to vote on it in the coming months. A similar measure is making its way through the senate.