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Elizabeth Shope’s Blog

Did you flush? At least 2.5 billion people didn't today... because they don't have a toilet

Elizabeth Shope

Posted March 20, 2013 in U.S. Law and Policy

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Water for the World and Sanitation Final Infographic.JPGThis morning, I used and flushed a toilet, and used sink and shower – all with running water inside my house. Normally, I don’t think about this, but today, I did, because Friday is World Water Day, and more than 2.5 billion people – over a third of the world’s population – do not have a toilet, or even a simple pit latrine. And almost 800 million people do not use an improved water source; an even greater amount lack access to running water in their homes. So today, in honor of this Friday’s World Water Day, I will join more than 100 activists who will spend the day on Capitol Hill talking to Members of Congress and their staff about the urgent need for Congress to pass legislation that improves the United States’ efforts to improve access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries.

In 2005, Congress passed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which directs USAID to “focus water and sanitation assistance toward the countries, locales, and people with greatest need.” While USAID projects have made major impacts in the lives of many individuals and communities, they could be doing even more if more of their funds were targeted to those with the greatest need. Determining who has the greatest need is tricky, but one angle to look at is the portion of a country’s population with access to improved sanitation. It turns out USAID is giving more money to the countries that have more than 80% sanitation coverage – including countries like Lebanon and Jordan which have almost 100% sanitation coverage – than to the poorest countries where less than 20% of the population has a toilet, pit latrine or other form of improved sanitation.

Especially with the budget cuts that the Obama Administration is facing, it’s more important than ever for our foreign aid to be used as efficiently as possible and targeted to those who need it the most, and were we can make the biggest difference in people’s lives. New legislation that will soon be introduced in Congress – the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act – is critical so that Congress can ensure that USAID funds are going to those who need it the most.

You can help celebrate World Water Day this week by sharing this new infographic from WaterAid, CARE and NRDC (on the left side of my blog), and calling your Members of Congress at 202-224-3121 and telling them you support legislation that would improve USAID’s work to provide safe drinking water and sanitation for all, by making existing programs go farther and ensuring they help the people who need it most.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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