Enhancing U.S. Leadership on Drinking Water and Sanitation

Opportunities within Global Health Programs

In the United States, domestic support for greater investments in projects dedicated to improving global health through addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene issues has gathered momentum in recent years. In 2005 President George W. Bush signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, making water, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) activities a strategic focus of United States foreign assistance. In FY 2008 and FY 2009, Congress appropriated $300 million to support international WSH activities for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. During a period of economic crisis in which some U.S. citizens have questioned the utility of overseas assistance programs and believe the government should focus more attention on domestic concerns, a poll released in May 2009 showed that 61 percent put improving access to safe drinking water at the top of a list of issues Americans believe should be global health priorities for the U.S. government.

With the Obama administration's announcement of a new Global Health Initiative, the time is right for U.S. agencies to assert political leadership in addressing the persistent and significant global health challenges related to water and sanitation. This report focuses on the links among water, sanitation, and the health sector and identifies opportunities for greater U.S. engagement on water and sanitation as global health challenges.

Katherine E. Bliss
Senior Fellow and Director, Immunizations and Health Systems Resilience, Global Health Policy Center