U.S., World Bank Sign MOU To Enhance Efforts To Bring Clean Water, Sanitation To World’s Poor

Marking World Water Day Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on behalf of the U.S. government, joined World Bank President Robert Zoellick in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance collaborative efforts between the groups to improve water and sanitation conditions for the world’s poor, the Epoch Times reports (Hayley, 3/22).

The U.S. government “is the world’s largest donor of official development assistance and is recognized worldwide for its science and technical expertise, and the World Bank is one of the world’s most important sources of financial, scientific and technical assistance for developing countries,” a State Department fact sheet states. “This agreement leverages the considerable expertise and assets of the two partners to help developing countries achieve water security and improve water quality,” according to the fact sheet, which offers a breakdown of several potential activities to be supported under the MOU (3/22).

“[W]ater security for us is a matter of economic security, human security, and national security, because we see potential for increasing unrest, conflicts, and instability over water,” Clinton said at the signing, according to a transcript from the event. However, “The water crisis can bring people together. …We have seen this in the success of local water groups, neighbors combining their resources to build wells and install pipes, then paying for water together. We have seen how water projects, done right, can unite engineers, health experts, educators, and political leaders. And we have seen countries come together to settle disputes and arrive at joint solutions to their water problems.”

Clinton described several recent commitments the government has made to improving water and sanitation services globally (3/22). According to the State Department fact sheet, the MOU will allow “the U.S. Government and World Bank to align their financial resources towards investments in water and sanitation” (3/22).

“Given today’s global economic challenges, the U.S. and the World Bank are committed to accelerating more efficient and effective ways to conserve clean water for all,” a State Department press release states. “The agreement also will expand the sharing of U.S. water knowledge with developing countries through staff exchanges and expert meetings,” the release adds (3/22).

World Water Day Conference Wraps Up

IRIN reports on the conclusion of a World Water Day Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, which examined how rapid urbanization was contributing to a shortage of clean drinking water in Africa.

During the meeting, “[d]elegates highlighted the need for better collaboration and communication between sectors, especially in developing countries, to improve access to water and deal with waste in urban areas, particularly informal settlements,” according to the news service. “They also discussed access to clean, affordable water and sanitation as a basic human right, and the need to scale up efforts in these areas,” IRIN writes. The article quotes Alioune Badiane, regional director for Africa and the Arab States at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT); Julia Bucknall of the World Bank; Joan Clos, U.N. deputy secretary-general and executive director of UN HABITAT; Ania Grobicki, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership; and Mbangiseni Nepfumbada, acting director general of Policy and Regulation at South Africa’s Department of Water Affairs (3/22).

UNEP Study Examines Lack Of Water Access In DRC

Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) “possesses over half of Africa’s water reserves,” an estimated 51 million people – roughly three-quarters of the population – “have no access to safe drinking water,” according to a study (.pdf) released by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) to coincide with World Water Day, U.N. News Centre reports. The authors pointed to “[t]he country’s troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization and under-investment in water infrastructure” as sources of safe drinking water shortages, according to the news service (3/22).

According the study, “in addition to major infrastructure improvements, an investment of approximately US$70 million over a five-year period is required to help strengthen the water sector,” a UNEP press release states. “Such investment should focus on the development of policy and regulatory instruments, data collection, capacity-building, as well as micro-level technological solutions,” the release adds (3/22). 

U.N. Calls For Greater Access To Water, Food For 2.4M Somalis Amid Ongoing Conflict

Also Tuesday, U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden appealed for “special attention to the needs of an estimated 2.4 million people” in Somalia who are experiencing food and water shortages “as the result of a severe drought” and ongoing violence, U.N. News Centre writes. “The drought has driven up food prices as scarcity worsens, exacerbating the rates of the malnutrition over the past six months, particularly in southern Somalia, where one in four children is acutely malnourished,” according to the news service. Conflict in southern and central Somalia is complicating efforts to respond to the needs of populations living in the region (3/22).

UNICEF Project Raises Money For Water, Sanitation

VOA News reports on an effort by UNICEF to help bring clean water to children around the world, by asking patrons at American restaurants this week to pay at least $1 for orders of tap water. The campaign, known as the Tap Project, has grown from 300 participating restaurants in New York City five years ago to an estimated 3,000 across the country this year (Elmasry, 3/22).

“Since its inception, TAP has raised $2.5 million,” Fast Company reports in an article that describes several other outreach efforts to raise funds through the project. “The TAP Project supports UNICEF’s water and sanitation projects around the world. This year, the initiative will focus on Togo, the Central African Republic, and Vietnam,” according to the news service (Schwartz, 3/22).

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