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Sec. Clinton Highlights Water As Diplomatic, Development Opportunity For U.S.

Marking World Water Day in a speech Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said tackling the world’s water problems “represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time,” Inter Press Service reports. “It’s not every day you find an issue where effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, feed the hungry, empower women, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares,” she said. 

According to IPS, Clinton “focused on the key role of partnerships between governments, NGOs, international financial institutions and the private sector” and discussed how the “stability of young governments in Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations depends in part on their ability to provide their people with access to water and sanitation.” The article includes comments from Clinton on how clean water and sanitation relates to the Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative and Food Security Initiative.

“As pressing as water issues are now they will become even more important in the near future,” Clinton said. “By 2025 – just fifteen years from now – nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries will be water-stressed … and 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity – the point at which a lack of water threatens social and economic development” (Berger, 3/22). The U.S. State Department website features a video and transcript from Clinton’s World Water Day speech (3/22).

Most Water-Deprived Countries Receiving Least Help From World Bank, Report Finds 

A study released by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group on Monday revealed “water scarcity had become more of a threat in arid regions, and that about 700 million people in 43 countries were facing stress on water supplies,” Reuters reports (Wroughton, 3/22).

In addition, the report found that “[t]he world’s most water-deprived countries are also receiving some of the least help from the World Bank to improve conditions,” according to the Washington Post. “Nearly one-third of the bank’s total lending – more than $54 billion – was linked to water shortages between 1997 and 2007, but there was little correlation between the flow of funds and the depth of a country’s water problems, according to the report,” the newspaper writes.

For example, “Ethiopia, Haiti and Niger … ranked at the bottom of a Water Poverty Index, which analysts used to measure the availability of water in a country against demand. All three had received only about $20 per capita in World Bank funding for water projects – compared with the more than $140 per capita provided to Guyana, a country classified as ‘water-rich.'”

The article includes comments by the World Bank’s director of energy, transport and water, who said the report failed to acknowledge recent changes at the bank to provide water funding for nations in need, and authors of the report, who highlight the responsibility countries play in defining water shortages as pressing issues in need of funds (Schneider, 3/23).

“The report recommended that the World Bank find ways to support countries facing the greatest water problems, and to find a way to attract other donors to ensure water issues are properly addressed,” Reuters continues. “The Bank should look for entry points to help countries make water use more sustainable, even if the Bank may not necessarily be able to finance all the work that is needed to resolve the most pressing water issues,” the report said (3/22).

Additional World Water Day Coverage

U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero said the U.S. will work with Pakistan and India to reduce the tension between the two countries over water, the Associated Press of Pakistan reports. Water will be “one of the six major issues of focus at Wednesday’s strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and … Clinton will co-chair the dialogue to be attended by senior water officials” (3/23).

Coca-Cola and USAID on Monday announced they would invest $12.7 million in their global partnership – the Water and Development Alliance (WADA) – to help provide clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, the Associated Press/BusinessWeek reports. The investment will help “support eight new three-year programs in Angola, Burundi, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania,” the news service writes (3/22).

“With this new investment, USAID and The Coca-Cola Company will have committed a total of $28.1 million since 2005 to support 32 projects in 22 countries worldwide in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia,” according to a joint press release (3/22).

In related news, the East African/allAfrica.com reports on the East African Sanitation Conference, which was recently held in Nairobi. The article notes how two years after the African Sanitation and Hygiene Conference, when “32 African countries signed the eThekwini Declaration at which they pledged to create separate budget lines for sanitation and hygiene in their countries and commit at least 0.5 per cent of GDP … East Africa continues to grapple with inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, raising the fear that it will not achieve the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation by 2015.”

The article details some of the water challenges facing the region that were discussed during the conference (Makeni, 3/22). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.