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People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Water & Sanitation

More Toilets, Clean Water: It Starts With You

Jim Holmes for AusAID

Today is Earth Day - an important time to reflect on the strides that have been made towards eradicating poverty and combating climate change, as well as the critical gaps that remain. Climate change has tremendous effects on the world’s poor, global health, and of course, the environment.

This past Saturday, leaders, finance ministers and performing artists came together at the Global Citizen Earth Day Festival to call for action around these critical issues. In between the awesome performances, many influential figures stepped up to the plate to announce their dedication to prioritizing international development in this critical year.

A few weeks before that, global citizens joined Fall Out Boy, Train and No Doubt to call on Canada for their leadership on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH issues). Canada has been a leader on maternal, newborn and child health as well as the global fight against polio, and this needs to be seen as a continuation of that important work.

There are many reasons why WASH issues need prioritization, and specifically, why Canada should take action. With 90% of developing countries disposing of untreated human waste into natural water rivers, lakes and oceans, environmental damage caused by poor WASH costs billions of dollars globally, as well as causing long-term effects on ecosystems.

In addition, many women face harassment, fewer social and economic opportunities, and poorer health outcomes due to inadequate WASH practices. 2,000 children die unnecessary-preventable- deaths every day. Improved sanitation structures and the prioritization of these issues could help change these realities for the world’s poor.

With a necessary shift towards ensuring that all development is sustainable, global citizens need to call for more than a few actions that touch the surface of the issues. We don’t need need band aids on the problem - we need systemic changes. WASH inequalities won’t be addressed overnight, and multilateral cooperation is necessary for making longer term progress, and we need you, global citizens, to be a part of this larger movement.

On March 31st, Canada’s Minister of International Development was flooded with your calls to action on Twitter. Thousands of you tweeted:

@christianparad & @pmharper join us at#GlobalCitizenEarthDay to demonstrate #canada's dedication to clean water &#sanitation for all

On April 18th, MP Paul Calandra responded to you all on behalf of Prime Minister Harper at Global Citizen Earth Day. Here’s what he had to say:

There is certainly more work to be done on WASH. This is the beginning of an important journey towards alleviating and eradicating extreme poverty that will require governments, companies, organizations, and citizens to be committed and active. However, it has to start somewhere, and this statement is a testament to how important your voice is in getting the ball rolling.

MP Calandra said that “Canada will continue to play this important role in working with our partners to improve the lives of women and children around the world.” So long as maternal, newborn and child health is a priority for Canada, WASH needs to be addressed in order to make Canada’s development work truly effective. This Earth Day, it’s important that you continue to take action to help build a better, healthier, and more equal world. TAKE ACTION NOW to sign a petition telling the Canadian government that water, sanitation, and hygiene is important to you. Call on them to take more action towards ending WASH injustices once and for all.