HIV/AIDS. Malaria. Climate Change. Child Mortality. Education. These are all challenges facing the developing world that have received much deserved and increasing attention from donors, governments, and the general public.
But where is the attention for sustainable access to clean water to prevent waterborne diseases, reduce child mortality, and maintain children healthy so that they may attend school? What about adequate and safe sanitation to ensure nearby water resources are not contaminated? Who is chanting the rallying cry for the 1 billion people who currently lack access to clean water and the 2.5 billion people who lack access to safe sanitation?
Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) have been neglected for far too long. Sanitation, in particular, had a millennium development goal named to its honor in 2002 – two years after all the others. The UN’s recent progress report on the MDGs found that reaching the goal for safe drinking water by 2015 appeared to be on track, albeit a bumpy track, however, progress towards the sanitation goal is way off.
The success of other MDGs, such as reducing child mortality and halting the spread of malaria and other diseases, depends on improved water and sanitation access. The world can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear to this sector. People have started taking notice and lending a voice to the cause. On October 15, Change.org organized a Blog Action Day, a novel concept begun in 2007 to unite the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day, thus raising awareness and triggering a global discussion around an important issue. This year’s Blog Action Day focused attention on the WASH sector.
The event drew the attention of many notable institutions including: the State Department, the White House, Google, TechCrunch, ONE, and many others. In total 5,711 bloggers from 143 countries participated in the event, reaching over 40 million readers. This was a great way to boost awareness and increase dialogue around the issue…for a day. But where do we go from here? How do we keep the dialogue going, increase the profile of the sector, and take the next steps towards greater action in reaching the MDG target?
Over the next few months, FSG will develop an advocacy strategy for WASH in the U.S. We hope to increase dialogue in the field and build on existing collaborative efforts to bring even greater attention to these long neglected issues. Additionally, we’d love to hear your thoughts or comments on how to raise awareness for WASH.