U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Water and sanitation deficits affect about 50
percent of all people in the developing world and lead to the deaths
of 1.8 million children each year, a United Nations water expert
Cecilia Ugaz, a high official of the U.N. Development Program,
told a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee briefing
there are huge inequalities between rich and poor in terms of access
"Water pricing reflects a simple perverse principle -- the poorer
you are, the more you pay," Ugaz said.
She said the water crisis in developing countries can be solved
provided that governments in affected countries and international
assistance efforts address the issue more energetically.
"Make water a human right -- and mean it. Every person should have
access to at least 20 litters of clean water a day," she said.
Rep. Donald Payne, a Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign
Affairs subcommittee on Africa, said the number of people without
access to water has increased by 60 million since 2004, and he warned
water shortages can lead to violence as groups compete for scarce
Payne noted that President George W. Bush's 2008 budget request
calls for a cut in water programs in sub-Saharan Africa.
"We can't meet U.N. development goals at the rate we are going,"
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, also a Democrat, said the administration has
declined to seriously implement 2005 legislation to enhance U.S.
water availability worldwide, of which he was the main proponent.
Last year, he said, only $70 million (euro51.5 million) was
budgeted for non-emergency water and sanitation in developing
countries, Of this, he said, only $10 million (euro7.37 million) was
earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa, the region most in need.
"I find it shocking, I find it incomprehensible," Blumenauer said,
accusing the State Department of ignoring the spirit of the
Claudia McMurray, a top State Department official who is
responsible for water issues, testified that the United States cannot
be expected to solve global water problems all by itself.
"Local and national governments have to take primary
responsibility," she said, adding that the United States can
contribute the most toward solving the issue by developing capacity.
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