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House Subcommittees Examine Role of Water in Conflicts

On September 9, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats and Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a joint hearing, “The Role of Water in Avoiding Conflict and Building Prosperity.”

“Today I would like to address a highly localized type of conflict: the conflict and physical and economic insecurity that hundreds of millions of women and families must deal with on a daily basis around the world because of a lack of safe drinking water or a safe place to go the bathroom,” said John Oldfield, chief executive officer, WASH Advocates. “As [United States Agency for International Development] Administrator [Rajiv] Shah said, and as the members of these subcommittees understand, these are the conditions that create the ‘long-term drivers of our insecurity.’” Mr. Oldfield continued, “It sounds quite intuitive, and there are many anecdotes showing the linkages between WASH [water, sanitation, and hygiene] and localized violence, including gender-based violence, but this field of study is just beginning to emerge.”

Detailing efforts to provide greater economic security, Mr. Oldfield said, “Another way to approach the linkages between water and economic prosperity is to take a look at new business and financial models underway in the sector. Water.org, a U.S. nonprofit led by Gary White, who is on WASH Advocates’ Global Advisory Council, is building microcredit facilities in the WASH sector in India and elsewhere. A woman in Bangalore, India was paying approximately $0.70/day (40 rupees) for water and sanitation services for her family, a significant portion of the family’s income. Her payments for a WaterCredit loan for a toilet and water connection for her home are the same as what she was accustomed to paying for water and sanitation previously. However, once that loan is paid off (two years), her family’s income will increase significantly, even after she pays for the ongoing maintenance for the water and sanitation services. Water.org writes, “‘WaterCredit is boosting family income, and boosting how much time women have. Women are now able to invest more in other family health issues. It elevates the economic standing of the person taking out the loan, and it preserves charity for those most in need.’”

The following witnesses also testified:

 

 

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