Saturday, December 10, 2011

International Development: The Human Right to Water - National Poll Reveals Americans Support Access to Global Safe Drinking Water

SOURCE WASH Advocacy Initiative

On the eve of United Nations Human Rights Day, 61 percent of Americans believe access to safe drinking water and sanitation should be a priority for the United States government when assisting developing nations, according to a recent Ipsos poll of 1,015 adults.

In 2010, safe drinking water and sanitation were declared human rights by the United Nations General Assembly. The recent national poll shows that many Americans agree. In fact, the 61 percent of Americans that supported safe drinking water and sanitation ranked it highest among key U.S. development projects including ones that strengthen basic healthcare, improve opportunities for education, and defense or military training in developing countries.

"Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize," said Senator Dick Durbin. "Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. I hope this poll gives momentum to our efforts to ensure access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for everyone who seeks it."

Nearly one in eight people do not have access to safe drinking water. Providing this basic human need would improve lives, especially the lives of millions of women in developing countries.

Women and young girls spend an average of 26 percent of their time collecting and transporting water for their families. This tireless task prevents girls from attending school and subjects them to adverse health effects from carrying a 40 pound container, the weight of an average first grader, on their heads.

Empowering young girls by allowing them the time to attend school is only one of the ways in which providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation can help millions of people around the world.

"Water is a fundamental human necessity in its own right and vital to sustainable progress in health, education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation," said John Oldfield, Managing Director of the WASH Advocacy Initiative. "We are doing everything we can to help governments around the world progressively realize the right to water and sanitation in their countries."

Additional results from this poll show that many Americans appreciate the links between safe drinking water and sanitation and sustainable progress:

  • 70 percent of Americans understand that access to safe drinking water and sanitation has a significant impact on reducing illness;
  • 66 percent of Americans feel similarly about safe drinking water and sanitation's effect on improving the quality of life in developing nations; and,
  • 46 percent of Americans believe access to safe drinking water and sanitation significantly impacts keeping children in schools in developing nations.

Whether it is described as a human right or simply the right thing to do, more than half of Americans agree it is important for the United States to invest in American-based charities that provide developing nations with access to safe drinking water and sanitation.