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US Senator Issues World Water Warning

An influential US senator has warned that a worldwide water crisis is quietly claiming millions of lives in developing countries and poses a threat to stability and the global economy.

Sen. Dick Durbin’s warnings come days before the world prepares to mark World Water Day, on Sunday. Durbin is introducing the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009, a bill he hopes will put water at the forefront of US development priorities.

“The global water crisis is a quiet killer,” Durbin said Tuesday at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill, attended by VOA Khmer. “In the developing world, 5,000 children die every day from easily preventable, water-related illnesses, such as cholera, typhoid and malaria, diseases that have been all but eradicated in wealthier nations. Most die silently.”

In Cambodia, unsafe drinking water kills some 10,000 people every year, half of whom are children. Nearly 80 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas, but less than four out of ten have access to improved water.

“Our rural water supply is not yet up to safe water supply,” Mao Saray, director of the Ministry of Rural Development’s rural water supply, told VOA by phone Wednesday. “It is only at what we call ‘improved water supply’...and there is still a long way to go before we can make it safe.”

Mao Saray added that the main sources of water that rural people use come from wells, rain water reservoirs, filtered reservoirs, and community ponds.

People need 50 liters of water per day to meet basic needs, while, according to Johns Hopkins researchers, the average American uses 578 liters of water per day.

Sen. Durbin, who is from the midwestern US state of Illinois, said that in some countries people do not meet the basic requirements, while women are the ones left to bear the hardship.

“Unless people have safe drinking water to start with, you can’t really hope for good health outcomes, enough food for them to eat, liberating women from being slaves carrying water back and forth everyday, and giving the chance for education and the future,” Sen. Durbin told a handful of reporters as he left Tuesday’s meeting “This to me gets to the basics. I want to get the basics, right, so a lot of money that we are spending today may be saved.”