Bipartisan Lawmakers Launch New Caucus Dedicated to Clean Water
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers are joining forces to bring greater attention to the global need for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Today, U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Xochitl Torres-Small (D-NM), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) officially launched the International Water and Sanitation Caucus along with eight other founding members.
The new caucus will provide focused oversight and advocacy around water and sanitation issues, which are central to U.S. and global health, economic productivity, ecosystem functions, and national security. Currently, 785 million people lack access to clean drinking water and 2 billion do not have access to proper sanitation. Future projections are even more sobering, with 2.9 billion people in 48 countries facing water shortages in the next decade.
“Extreme weather events, like the devastating wildfires burning throughout my home state, are a reminder of the destructive threats posed by the climate emergency. This climate crisis will only expedite the water scarcity faced by billions, putting some of the most vulnerable populations at an even greater risk.” Blumenauer said. “Access to clean, safe drinking water and sanitation is not only essential in the prevention of unnecessary disease and death, it is a basic human right.”
"Inadequate water and sanitation around the world is a risk to America's national security and our global health," LaHood said. "As a global health leader, the United States must elevate the importance of sanitation and access to clean water, which has been further illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud to join Congressman Blumenauer in launching the International Water and Sanitation Caucus and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to emphasize these important issues."
“In New Mexico, we know firsthand that water is life. But, as my colleagues know, whether you live in New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois, or Indiana, access to clean, safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene is essential,” Torres Small said. “I am proud to help form the International Water and Sanitation Caucus as a bipartisan space to work across the aisle with Members who share the same commitment to addressing water scarcity and invest in solutions that work for us all.”
“Access to clean water for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene is necessary to improve health and wellness, promote social resiliency, and strengthen the global economy,” Walorski said. “I’m excited to join my colleagues in launching the bipartisan International Water and Sanitation Caucus to explore challenges and solutions surrounding access to safe water and proper hygiene in communities across our country and around the world.”
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need for clean water and sanitation as the primary way to curtail and prevent the spread of the virus and dozens of other illnesses and diseases. An estimated 1 billion people are at immediate risk of COVID-19 because they cannot adequately wash their hands, which results in disproportionate impacts on low resource communities where PPE and social distancing are not possible.
Currently, the U.S. government spends less than 1/100th of a percent of the federal budget on global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The International Water and Sanitation Caucus will work across the aisle to promote and expand crucial, cost-effective investments in WASH.
“InterAction applauds this bipartisan effort to elevate international water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in U.S. foreign policy. American leadership is critical now, more than ever, as WASH is essential to the prevention, response to, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and without WASH at the top of the agenda, all of our global efforts will be less effective,” said Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction.
“As 40 per cent of the world's population still lack basic handwashing facilities at home, UNICEF USA welcomes the launch of the bipartisan International Water and Sanitation Caucus and thanks Representatives Blumenauer, LaHood, Torres Small, and Walorski for their leadership. COVID-19 brings into sharp relief existing inequalities and the need for innovative cooperation to reach the most vulnerable children and families with WASH services and facilities,” added Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO of UNICEF USA.
A fact sheet on the importance of WASH can be found here.
Today, at 10:00 AM E.T., the International Water and Sanitation Caucus will hold its inaugural event, “WASH During COVID-19: What We Know So Far.” For more information about the virtual briefing, please click here.