WASHINGTON – It's tasteless,odorless and colorless,yet it is the most vital source of life,and a scarce commodity in dozens of countries around the world. The mystery object is water. And 1.8 million children die from diarrhea each year as a result of unsafe drinking water,according to the U.S. State Deptartment.
The subcommittee on Africa and global health met Wednesday to discuss the water crisis in Africa and the U.S. response.
Rep. Donald M. Payne,D-N.J.,the committee chair,and Rep. Christopher Smith,R-N.J., the ranking member,acknowledged the need for Congress to become more involved in the water crisis.
“Over 300 million people lack access to fresh water,” Smith said.
That's the equivalent to the entire U.S. population.
In 2005,the “Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act” became law.
In a written statement,Rep. Earl Blumenauer,D-Ore.,criticized the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for not enforcing the law.
Blumenauer told the committee that the money has not been spent in “high-priority ways” in countries that need it most.
The U.S. Agency for International Development spent almost $400 million under that law in 2005,including $275 million for water supply and sanitation. But,he said,the agency spent about $100 million of that on disaster assistance and another approximately $100 million in Iraq,both of which he said fail outside the law's scope.
Blumenauer's written statement said only about $70 million was spent on non-emergency water supply and sanitation,and of that,less than $10 million went to sub-Saharan Africa,the region with the greatest need.
Blumenauer called on Congress to cut in half the number of people who are suffering without an adequate supply of safe drinking water by 2013.
“It is not beyond the capacity of the world to do it. We ought to roll up our sleeves and follow through on our commitments,” he said.
Amina Salum Ali,a native of Zanzibar,Tanzania,and the ambassador and permanent representative of the African Union to the United States,testified about conditions in Africa.
“In terms of sanitation,we don't have adequate sanitation. Our children suffer; they have health problems because of lack of sanitation,” she said.
“We know that in order to move forward,water is a very basic essential,” Payne said. “The new Congress is extremely serious about water.”