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Women and WASH Discussion, Johannesburg, South Africa

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Women and WASH Discussion
Johannesburg, South Africa

September 3, 2002

Thank you.

I = m pleased to be here today to discuss the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Initiative (WASH) and its role in providing clean and reliable water and sanitation services to people all around the world.

There is no doubt that the challenge of ensuring that every person has access to a sufficient supply of clean, safe water is one of the most fundamentally important issues facing all of us. Meeting this challenge holds enormous potential for improving the health of all those who now lack access to safe supplies of water. Positive action on this front means that literally millions of lives will be saved, while millions more will be spared the effects of malnutrition, anemia, and retarded growth.

The United States believes that in order to meet this challenge, all of us need to seize the opportunity this summit presents to energize the public sector, civil society, and the private sector in pursuit of our shared clean water goals.

WASH is an example of the type of global partnership that is necessary to achieve real and long lasting results in the area of sustainable development. WASH is committed to providing infrastructure for water and sanitation services to under served communities in rural and urban areas.

In addition to infrastructure, WASH emphasizes the need to educate about hygiene, water management, and sanitation practices in order to improve family health. Reaching women of the developing world is a key part of that education process.

Women are the heart and hands of the home. In much of the world they oversee the cooking, washing, and health needs of their families. Providing them with an understanding of the harmful effects of dirty water and poor sanitation habits and helping them make changes to combat these effects will have a direct impact on the health and livelihood of their spouses and children.

The United States at this summit has also been active on the issue of providing clean water to developing countries and we have introduced several initiatives that complement the goals of WASH.

President Bush = s A Water for the Poor @ initiative, which was announced last week, represents a new strategic direction for the United States government. It seeks to build new partnerships B both governmental and non-governmental B to advance sustainable management of fresh water resources in three key areas.

Those areas are: improving access to clean water and sanitation services; fostering watershed management; and, increasing the productivity of water use. Through A Water for the Poor, @ the United States will commit up to $970 million over three years, of which more than $500 million will be devoted to water supply, sanitation, and health projects.

We expect this nearly billion-dollar investment to leverage an additional $1.6 billion for water-related activities worldwide. We are hopeful this historic commitment will help ensure that the UN Millennium Declaration Goal of cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people who don = t have safe drinking water is met.

The children of the world B all the children of the world B will be the most important beneficiaries of this progress. There is no doubt that they suffer more acutely B and pay a greater price B for the lack of clean water.

This is true, of course, not just with respect to water, but across a whole host of environmental challenges. That is why EPA is committed to helping to develop international children = s environmental health indicators.

Children = s environmental health indicators are effective tools for guiding policy and action in such areas as eliminating environmental hazards, preventing exposures, and treating children = s illnesses. They provide information to enable governments to set priorities, target resources and policies, and help evaluate progress toward goals. And they help make certain that we are investing in the world = s most important asset B our children.

So as we work together B as partners to improve the environment and thereby improve the health of humankind B let us rededicate ourselves to the proposition that one day all the people of the world will have access to clean water. Thank you.