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Australia Just Pledged $6,000,000 to Improve Water and Sanitation Services at Global Citizen’s Event in New York

Global Citizen

For everyone — and especially children — water means life.

Access to clean water and sanitation for all is essential to ensuring a world without extreme poverty.

But every year, hundreds of thousands of children die due to preventable water- and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases, and around the world, 2.1 billion people still do not have safely managed water services, such as fecal sludge management.

Each year, the call to improve urban sanitation, to provide clean water to all households, and to increase fecal sludge management goes unanswered.

Read More: Since 2015, USAID Has Helped Provide Clean Water Access to 7 Million People. Now, That Aid Is Being Threatened

Global Citizen is hoping to change that.

Last night, Global Citizen joined voices with the governments of Australia and Mexico, as well as Johnson & Johnson, to sound an even louder call to action on water and sanitation (WASH).

Hosted at the Tenement Museum in New York City, Global Citizen’s “Coming Clean for Child Health” event brought together government and corporate leaders, water and sanitation experts, as well as Global Citizens for a lively discussion on WASH.  

Making a big splash toward ensuring universal access to WASH and improved fecal sludge management, the government of Australia announced a $6 million commitment to improving WASH around the world.

Julie Bishop, Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the announcement via video message before a packed crowd at the Tenement Museum in New York’s Lower East Side on Thursday.

The $6 million donation will go toward the Water Innovation Engine, a “shark tank”-like funding mechanism designed to create innovative solutions for fecal sludge management and improving water and sanitation services.

“Coming Clean for Child Health” was one of many events hosted by Global Citizen as a part of the first-ever Global Citizen Week. Also during GC Week, Canada announced that it would commit $3.8 million toward the Water Innovation Engine — a commitment that will be matched up to $5 million by all participating partners.

This vital funding will be provided to innovators who need financial support to bring their innovations to life, and could go on to fix major problems such as fecal sludge management.

The building where  Thursday’s event was held stands today as a monument to urban poverty in the US and connects the past to present-day issues that immigrants and people in poverty still face today.

Read More: After a Deadly Mudslide, Sierra Leone Will Vaccinate Over 500K Against Cholera

“Being in this city today is a physical reminder of the importance of urban sanitation and its impact on global health,” Christopher Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said at the event.

Before it became the Tenement Museum in 1988, the building on 103 Orchard Street was a tenement apartment, an urban dwelling that often failed to meet the minimum standards for safety, sanitation, and comfort.

Built in 1863, the five-story building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was designed to house 20 families. When it first opened, 77 people, most of them Jewish or German immigrants, lived in the tenement, and the population density grew with time. Over time, the building was home to 7,000 working class immigrants until was shut down in 1935.

In the year it was built, running water could not reach the top floor of the 5-story building, and indoor toilets were not installed until 1901.

“Cholera’s history in New York city is illustrative of just how important clean water, hygiene and safely managed sanitation was then and still is today,” Elias said.

In the mid-1800s, thousands of people died and several hundred thousand more were infected by cholera because of the inadequate sanitation services, lack of infrastructure, and close quarters in the New York tenements, he said.

“Only 150 years ago people in this city in New York had to use an outhouse or a chamberpot,” Dr. Tedros, Director General of the World Health Organization, said on Thursday.

“Unfortunately we do not need a museum to tell us that many people still like that,” Dr. Tedros said. “Today more than 4.5 billion people do not have adequate sanitation. That’s more than half the world’s population.”

Vaccines are essential in preventing deaths from diseases like measles, as well as many water-borne disease like cholera.

Still, in 2016, one out of every ten children around the world was not vaccinated, leaving them at a greater risk of contracting and dying from preventable diseases onset by poor sanitation.

“We, the international community, have a moral obligation to facilitate universal access to vaccination, thus helping to reduce global child mortality. It is a human right for every individual to have the opportunity to live a healthier and fuller life,” Michelle Muscat, an advocate for child health and the first lady of Malta, said at the event.

Although there is enough clean water for everyone in the world, millions of children go without and are forced to rely on unsafe water, putting themselves at risk of diseases like cholera and diarrhea.

Without water near home, many children — more often than not girls — miss out on school because they have to walk long and treacherous distances to collect water.

Read More: A New Outbreak Is Threatening Ebola Survivors in Congo

Climate change and natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts and earthquakes continue to threaten safe drinking water supplies. Millions of people are on the move around the world, fleeing conflict and natural crises, and in the process opening up the doors to water-borne illnesses and disease outbreaks caused by lack of sanitation.

Speakers at the event said that there has never been a more urgent time to advocate for every child’s right to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

“A comprehensive vaccination program together with water, hygiene, and sanitation are the cornerstones of effective public health and will reduce poverty and inequality while saving lives and contributing to living peaceful,” Muscat said.

While significant progress has been made toward improving access to basic WASH over the past few decades, there is much more work to be done.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, and access to clean water and sanitation is number 6. You can take action on this issue here.