Last Tuesday on World Water Advocacy Day, International Action staff went to Capitol Hill to join forces with leaders from other Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) organizations and confront lawmakers directly. After a morning filled with inspirational speeches and careful preparation, everyone broke into groups to meet with the representatives of forty different congressmen.
Earlier this year congress passed The Water for the World Act, and the Newborn, Child, and Mother Survival Act, but the money has yet to be allocated for these bills. The fight now is to try to get the necessary funds to maximize the effectiveness of this legislation.
During the meetings in each congressional office we explained the pressing need to allocate money for these bills. Poor water and sanitation leads to diarrhea, which strips the body of vital nutrients and is the second leading cause of child death around the world. In addition to being relatively cheap to implement, the bill’s strategies are highly cost-effective. For every one dollar invested in water and sanitation, $8 is returned in the form of increased productivity and decreased healthcare costs.
We asked congressman for $500 million for long-term safe drinking water and sanitation projects, and at least $1 billion for maternal and child health initiatives. For the most part the senators seemed to be very understanding. In the past WASH issues have received bipartisan support, and many of the people whom we met with played an important role in pushing the initial legislation through. However, with a tight fiscal budget in the upcoming year, it remains to be seen how congress will allocate this year’s limited funding.