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According to World Health Organization calculations, some 1.5 million children die each year across the world from diarrheal disease and 94 percent of the cases are due to unclean water, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene. But the detrimental effects of these problems are by no means limited to children: they have severe and long-lasting effects on individual health and development, which taken as a whole put great stress on many developing nations. For example, illness from poor sanitation has been estimated to cost Cambodia and Vietnam over $1 billion in lost Gross Domestic Product every year due to missed workdays.
Since its creation in 1961, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been at the forefront of international efforts to improve the health and well-being of people throughout the developing world. It was USAID, for example, that pioneered the widespread use of oral rehydration salts that has saved so many lives from diarrheal disease. As the largest provider of bilateral health assistance in the world, USAID continues to provide scientific and technical leadership across a wide array of health and medical programs, including major programs to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other emerging infectious diseases.
PROGRAM ACTIVITIES IN THE LOWER MEKONG BASIN
Participating Countries: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam
WaterSHED focuses on three countries in the Lower Mekong Basin. It is a public-private partnership (e.g., a collaboration between government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations), led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A $17 million, five-year program, WaterSHED is designed to bring effective, affordable water and sanitation products to the marketplace and ultimately to low income households and individuals. It works through private companies to encourage the purchase and use of a wide range of low cost water and sanitation products, such as latrines, toilets, and the ceramic water purifier shown above.
WaterSHED concentrates on five key areas:
- Promoting consumer demand for better water, sanitation, and hygiene products and services;
- Assessing commercial viability of water and sanitation products and testing their quality;
- Introducing effective and affordable water, sanitation, and hygiene products and services through local enterprises;
- Working with microfinance organizations to offer financing options for the poor to buy the products, and for the enterprises (e.g. manufacturers, suppliers) to be able to bring the products to market; and
- Working with private sector and regional partners to replicate successes across the region.
Last updated: June 03, 2013