March 21, 2015 | ,

On World Water Day, PATH celebrates the Water for the World Act

The US government has set in motion plans to improve access to safe water around the globe. Two of PATH's leaders explain how this will impact lives.
Group of children standing in a grass field and holding empty water
Children in Kenya hold empty water containers over their heads. Clean water can contribute to fewer cases of the two most common killers of young children, pneumonia and diarrhea. Photo: PATH/Teresa Guillien.

The following is an excerpt from a post on the Defeat DD blog.

On World Water Day, remembering the true compass for our water policies and programs

One year ago this month, advocates raised their glasses in a virtual toast to celebrate the lifesaving impact of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Then in December, members of Congress clinked their glasses in return through the unanimous passage of the Water for the World Act, which:

  • More effectively targets US funds to communities with greatest need.
  • Promotes coordination across US government agencies working on WASH, including integration with other health and development areas.
  • Creates more robust monitoring and evaluation measures to ensure that resources are invested in the most impactful way possible.
Five people get water from a pump, electrochlorinator device in foreground.
In Zimbabwe, community members use an electrochlorinator device to treat water at a borehole, one of the many technologies PATH has helped to develop. Photo: PATH/Jesse Schubert.

As we mark World Water Day on March 22, we applaud the US government for prioritizing this important policy. The improved targeting of US funds for WASH will doubtlessly buoy maternal, newborn, and child health outcomes. Consider the simple fact that if every child under five had access to safe drinking water, hundreds of thousands of deaths due to diarrhea could be prevented.

The policy also acknowledges that creative approaches to on-the-ground implementation are just as important as innovative health tools, a priority that we also share. A relentless focus on results and the practical implementation of what works for the world’s poorest communities are woven into PATH’s DNA.

PATH develops WASH technologies, but these tools are not the core compass of our program. The hallmark of our market-based safe water and sanitation programs is user-centered design and testing; our truest laboratory is the community itself. Do the water filters that people are using promote correct and consistent use? Is this newly designed water filter a practical (and appealing) solution for Taramma, a mother in Vavilala, India? What features do villagers in Tanzania want in a hand-washing station? How can we redesign a water filter in Cambodia to make it more appealing to customers? How can we make a latrine that is inexpensive, faster to build, and still considered pucca by end-users in India? We test, incorporate feedback, and test again until we have a product people will buy and consistently use.

To learn more about PATH’s work toward providing access to safe water for everyone, read this post in its entirety on the Defeat DD blog.

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  • Amie Batson is the chief strategy officer and vice president of Strategy and learning at PATH.