By: Susan Barnett
“I’m a former judge, I saw criminal cases my whole life. This to me, this whole concept of water, is many things. But one thing that it is a victims’ issue and here’s why,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) told the House floor. “Millions of women and children across the developing world wake up and make their daily, dangerous walk in search of the necessity of life ...They are met with some bad guys [who] control the water system (well, creek), and for that lady to have access to a little fresh water, they do bad things to her ... That should not occur anywhere in the world. It gets my blood pressure up and it oughta get yours up.”
The following week, he spoke again of water, “Eighty percent of the countries receiving aid report that water issues remain. The poor still lack water and sanitation. With our God-given resources, we have an obligation and a privilege to make sure people receive the basic of life: clean water. And that is just the way it is.”
Judge Poe is retiring from Congress, having served 14 years. Along the way he helped get the deadly issue of dirty water into key, bipartisan legislation like the Water for the World Act, as an original sponsor alongside Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); and the Global Food Security Act to address the “underlying causes of malnutrition, including lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene."
Judge Poe understands that clean water is something everyone can agree upon, and that global health and development efforts fall short if investment in safe water and sanitation is neglected. Though we've successfully cut in half the number of children who die under age 5, their biggest remaining killers -- diarrhea and pneumonia -- are directly linked to the lack of access to safe water and sanitation, as are some 50 different illnesses and diseases.
Around the world, hospitals and healthcare facilities can't provide safe and hygenic care because (unvelievably) they don't have clean water and sanitation. Improving nutrition requires clean water. Helping developing countries build resilience to food shortages caused by natural and man-made disasters requires water. As do pandemic prevention, economic development and the list goes on.
Judge Poe also understands the clear linkages to U.S. national security. As chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, his pivotal leadership led to the first-ever whole-of-government Global Water Strategy launched this past November. Importantly, this strategy coordinates the activities of 17 government agencies that have a role in global water security, from the U.S. Department of State and USAID, to NASA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even the U.S. Air Force.
"It is encouraging," he told Congress, "To see our nation and Congress recognizing water as the global security crisis that it is and the need to build capacity to clean water.” “But there is still work to be done,” reiterating, “With our God-given resources, we have it within our power and our duty to help others access clean water — the key to life. And that is just the way it is.”
Judge Poe sees water for what it is: That pivotal opportunity to improve global health and healthcare facilities, as well as global security, the global economy, and create more viable trade partners for U.S. goods and services. No doubt about it, the legacy he leaves from his time in Congress will include work that has saved lives, kept girls in school, reduced medical and lost productivity costs for impoverished families, and helped make the world and our country that much safer.
"And that is just the way it is."
Yes it is, Judge Poe. Yes it is.
As originally published in The Hill