Ultimately, I believe, our planet’s sustainability will be determined by one overarching action: how mankind protects, supports and realizes the potential of human life and human systems and that of other species and ecosystems— and how sustaining life and the environment go hand in hand.
In that regard, I participated last month during World Water Week in a “WASH/Environmental Working Group” panel which addressed the linkage between the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and the protection of human health undertaken by water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs.
At that meeting, on behalf of USAID, I invited the NGO participants to continue our dialogue and meet with a wider range of USAID experts. On April 13, representatives from the WASH Advocacy Initiative, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) came to USAID. They met with several USAID executives, including Eric Postel, newly confirmed Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade; Dr. John Borrazzo, Chief, Maternal and Child Health Division, Bureau for Global Health; representatives from USAID ‘s Bureau for Food Security and Bureau for Policy, Program and Planning; and myself.
The meeting examined ways in which the USAID and the NGO community might increase their impact on sustaining both human populations and ecosystems by working together to build on past success and develop new models of integrated freshwater supply and water supply, hygiene, and sanitation approaches, as well as ways to effect WASH-Food Security integration.
We discussed the USAID-funded WASH–NRM “Healthy Families, Healthy Forests” project in Madagascar being undertaken by CRS and CI to conserve biodiversity and provide critical health services to remote rural populations. Another project, supported by USAID and TNC in Ecuador, established a revolving fund both to protect a major watershed and to provide water from that watershed to the urban poor. Additionally, we also addressed WWFs’ “Green Recovery” approach to assist people recovering from disasters by minimizing harm to the environment.
Looking ahead, we will continue to consider ways in which to forge this crucial linkage between the protection of natural resources and human health.