About the Author: Daniel Garrett serves in the Office of Environmental Policy in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.“Filthy water cannot be washed.” -- African Proverb
And yet somehow, we must find a way to do so. Every 15 seconds, a child dies due to a water-related disease. And that is why they have come together this morning, the Presidents of Tajikistan, Liberia, and Senegal; the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the Foreign Minister of Japan, the Former Prime Minister Republic of Korea, the Secretary of State for Development of the United Kingdom, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, the Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the UN Secretary-General, and several other important stakeholders.
They have come together because of the essential element, bar none, strategically placed on the tables in the bottles to their left, just above the knife and fork: water. This group of powerful people have gathered to raise awareness that water is a critical contributor to the realization of all of the Millennium Development Goals; as policymakers and opinion shapers they are trying to define what policy changes are needed and to find a way to best target aid resources, so that the goal is met. The goal is clear: fewer sick and dying children, and more smiling, thirst-quenched, water-cleansed faces.
Some, in fact, call access to water and sanitation the "orphan" MDG. Although there are specific water-related goals in the MDGs, water is special, in that it is, more than anything else, the common thread -- the connecting rivulet -- that runs as a necessity through all of the MDGs. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is critical for human health, fundamental to gender equality and education, essential for economic growth and food security, and underlies peace and security in many regions throughout the world.
It is estimated that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world's population will be living under water-stressed conditions. Water scarcity and degraded water quality will increase disease, undermine economic growth, limit food production, and become an increasing threat to peace and security. We are seeing these effects today. Unsafe water and poor sanitation are now the single largest cause of illness worldwide. Nearly two million people, mostly children under five, die each year from preventable diarrheal diseases; droughts and floods now affect more people than all other natural disasters combined; and competition over water resources is an increasing source of tension and conflict in many regions of the world. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges.
Moreover, water is essential to sustainable development. For every $1 invested in sanitation, $9 is returned in increased economic development. It is estimated that meeting the sanitation and drinking water targets by 2015 would have an annual economic benefit of $38 billion in developing countries. Yet recent analyses of investment flows show that aid and budget allocations in the sector are not well targeted. Only 42 percent of sector aid goes to low income countries, and only 16 percent is invested in "basic" systems that primarily serve the poor.
In recognition of the enormous water crisis the world is facing, the United States is actively partnering with other nations, international NGOs, multilateral development banks, international organizations, and the private sector to bring our collective resources to meet this challenge. By coordinating, targeting, and harmonizing all of our efforts we can greatly magnify our impact and reach those who are suffering most. Today's breakfast, "Addressing the Global Water Challenge: The Key to the MDGs" is the start of an ambitious effort to ensure that we can jointly meet the needs of the nine billion people who will populate the world just 40 years from now. The United States is ready and open to partnering with all others who share this goal.
"Drop by drop, it becomes a river." -- Afghan proverbMore from UNGA:Secretary Clinton's Travel to New York for the United Nations 65th General Assembly | U.S. Strategy for Meeting the Millennium Development Goals