Catching the WASH Wave: The Growing Momentum for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the Clinton Global Initiative
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As global leaders, philanthropists, Nobel Prize laureates and CEOs convened at the Clinton Global Initiative last week, multi-national corporations and non-profits made substantial commitments to provide millions of people with access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
Procter & Gamble led the corporate charge by committing to bring safe drinking water to more than 2 million people in the Horn of Africa through its Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program. According to the UN, at any given time, more than half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from waterborne diseases. The Procter & Gamble commitment is estimated to prevent more than 10 million days of illness in the region and represents a total investment of more than $3 million.
Through P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, Target is also providing one million days of safe drinking water, and the United States Agency for International Development is providing one million people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa with safe drinking water.
“At the Clinton Global Initiative, we have a wide variety of members from business, government, and the nonprofit world who are working together to address this critical issue,” President Clinton said. “P&G is doing more than almost any other corporation to save kids’ lives by providing clean drinking water.”
Global nonprofits also rode the WASH wave and committed to helping millions gain access to safe drinking water. World Vision committed to assisting 2.2 million drought-affected children and their families in the Horn of Africa by providing access to safe drinking water. The International Medical Corps committed to helping more than 11 million people by providing integrated health, water, sanitation and hygiene in key areas of East Africa.
WASH flowed into several other discussions at the Clinton Global Initiative, including one of the three major topics, Girls and Women: Scaling What Works.
Women and young girls in developing countries bear the economic and educational burdens associated with unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. Collecting water accounts for 26 percent of a woman or young girl’s time, which is time she could spend in school or on other economic activities. At the “Early Interventions for 12-year-old Girls” session, experts discussed how access to water and sanitation can improve girls’ lives.
“Improving the lives of adolescent girls is about much more than water, but never about less,” said WASH Advocacy Initiative’s Managing Director, John Oldfield. “Water is a basic and fundamental element that helps young girls attend school, breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Women account for two-thirds of global illiteracy. The lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in schools results in low levels of attendance among girls, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality. One way to break the cycle is by providing improved access to single-gender sanitation facilities, which according to the UN, increases girls’ enrollment rates by more than 15 percent.
“The empowerment of girls is a key factor in reducing poverty,” said the First Lady of the Republic of Peru, Nadine Heredia. “Among the main problems affecting Peruvian girls and teenagers are the high rate of school desertion and teenage pregnancy, which are both closely related.”
The impact of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene on health, education, girls’ empowerment and economic opportunity has often been overlooked, but the international community is now giving WASH the attention it needs and deserves.