Gavin Strang MP will this morning open the Festival of Water organised by the Portobello and District Council of Churches Peace and Justice Group, in St Philip’s Church Hall, Joppa.
Extracts from Gavin Strang’s opening speech follow:-
Over one billion people in the world still lack safe water to drink. Five thousand children die every single day from dirty water and inadequate sanitation. It is believed that at any one time, half the population of developing countries are suffering from water-related illnesses.
The Government announced at the end of last year that it had decided to recognise the human right to water. This was in response to the UN Human Development Report on Water and Sanitation which was published in November.
International Development Secretary Hilary Benn has recognised that there is a massive challenge here. The UK is doubling its support in Africa to £95 million a year by 2008, with the intention of doubling it again by 2011. The Government has called on EU countries to increase the level of their water funding through a reformed EU Water Facility backed by the European Development Fund.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goal committed the world to global action to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015.
Progress is being made, indeed the Department for International Development (DfID) reckon that the world is on track to meeting the target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. The share of people using drinking water from improved sources has continued to rise in the world. It reached 83% in 2004, up from 78% in 1990.
But some parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, will not meet the target. We need to ensure that DfID spending on water and sanitation continues to rise. Water and sanitation is absolutely basic to human health, poverty reduction and economic development.
I congratulate the organisers of this event. I am privileged to be invited to open it, and pledge to do what I can as an Edinburgh MP to secure real advances in the supply of clean water throughout the developing world for people living in rural and urban areas.