Opening Remarks for the 6th Annual Walk for Water

Jennifer Haverkamp, the Special Representative on the Environment and Water
Washington, DC
June 2, 2016

Welcome to the 6th Annual Walk for Water! I am Jennifer Haverkamp, the Special Representative on the Environment and Water. Thank you to the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (M/PRI) for organizing another great Walk for Water this year. What a beautiful day. It’s great to see so many friends and colleagues. I know everyone is ready to walk so I won’t be long. I even see some of you carrying water bottles – we all know the importance of water – for our health, to grow food and produce energy, and to ensure sustainable living environments for evrything on this planet.

Despite how important water is, many people throughout the world lack the water they need to meet basic needs. Addressing these challenges is a priority for the United States. The United States is working to create a more water secure world by increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improving water resources management, and promoting cooperation over shared waters. More than 20 U.S. government agencies and departments make major contributions to international water and sanitation challenges. USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation have allocated $6.3 billion for water-related projects in more than 60 countries from 2007 to 2014.

USAID, under its recently launched Water and Development Strategy in 2013 has provided improved access to safe drinking water to more than 7.6 million and improved access to sanitation to 4.3 million people.

But this walk isn’t about what’s been done but what is still left to do.

Some 1.5 to 2 billion people in the world still lack access to safe drinking water. Another 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation facilities. This burden falls disproportionately to women and girls. In many developing countries, women and girls are responsible for collecting water for their families. On average, these women and girls walk 6 kilometers – approximately 3.5 miles – everyday to get water for their communities. This is the distance we are walking today. We are walking today to highlight the importance of water, to remember the special needs of women and girls, and to demonstrating our commitment to creating a more water secure future for all of us. So let’s walk.

Before the fun begins, I want to thank the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, Björn Lyrvall, and the rest of the Swedish Embassy for participating in the Walk for Water and for hosting the half-way point activities.

I also want to thank all of you who are participating in this walk today! Water is a most precious resource and we can all do our part to raise awareness of water issues. Remember to use hashtag #6Kwaterwalk in your social media postings…and enjoy the walk!