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Water & Sanitation

2 human rights get spotlight at Democratic Debate: access to water and education

On Sunday, March 5th, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders once again faced off to clarify their policy differences in the competition for the Democratic Party’s US Presidential nomination. At times, it got contentious. On some topics, though, there was a lot of agreement, and for understandable reasons.

When it comes to basic human rights, there’s really only one stance that can be taken by anyone aspiring to be President: make sure those rights are protected.

This debate pointedly took place in the city of Flint, Michigan. Currently, the people of Flint, are getting lead contaminated water contaminated piped into their homes. Tens of thousands of children have been exposed to water with dangerously high lead levels. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage in children. This has been going on for around two years.

“Imagine this for a second, imagine a mother who had a bright seven-year-old gregarious girl doing well in school,” Mr. Sanders said during the debate. “Two years later, that child is now in special education, intellectual capabilities significantly deteriorated. That is a crime against that child, and the people of Flint. And, clearly, people are going to have to be held accountable.”

And this water crisis goes far beyond Flint.

Mrs. Clinton went on to say, “I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is because it’s not only in water systems, it’s also in soil, and it’s in lead paint that is found mostly in older homes. That’s why 500,000 children today have lead — lead in their bodies.”

The situation in Flint is the result of terrible mismanagement by state officials. But in other parts of the country, old infrastructure and contaminated soil and air have caused similar lead problems.

Globally, the issue of contaminated water is even more extreme. 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean water and 2.4 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation systems. This causes a range of health problems and actually kills 800,000 kids under the age of 5 each year.

The Democratic Party’s debate also featured questions from concerned parents of neighboring Detroit, Michigan, who are witnessing the collapse of local school systems.

One audience member said, “we have issues with rats, mold, no working water fountains, not to mention non- certified teachers, lack of accountability around transportation and special education, and so much more.”

It’s a situation that would cause a lot of parents to despair, especially when the nearest political representatives seem incapable of taking action.

Both Sanders and Clinton said the situation is unacceptable and committed to substantially invest in education if elected president.

Making sure Detroit’s schools aren’t swarming with rats is the first step. Then it’s making the kinds of changes that transform student expectations: modernizing schools, bringing in necessary resources, investing in teachers and investing in all sorts after and before school programs.

After all, school is of the most vital resources in a society. It empowers young boys and girls to achieve their full potential.

And as Sanders said, “The wealthiest country in the history of the world has got to get its priorities right, take care of the people.”

More than 62 million girls are denied the right to an education around the world, which often pushes them into a life of poverty.

As Clinton said, “What is more important than the health and wellbeing of the people, particularly children?”

While the two candidates sparred throughout, when it came to these basic issues, they joined together to paint a country that guarantees all human rights for all citizens.

The next step is bringing this commitment to the world.