WHO Director-General Chan says access to water key to ending poverty

Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr. Margaret Chan gave a speech at the Budapest Water Summit on Wednesday, stating that the key to fighting poverty begins with increased access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

"The health sector can launch campaigns to promote hygiene, treat the sick, and count the cases and deaths," Chan said. "But the true root causes of these diseases reside in non-health sectors and must be tackled there. We depend on you for prevention."

Chan said that the true underbelly of the beast of poverty is directly linked to access to water.

"Poverty can never be eradicated, or even greatly reduced, as long as so many millions of people cannot access safe water and so many billions are living in environments contaminated by feces," Chan said. "Efforts to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene should be viewed as a pro-poor strategy on a massive scale. If poverty eradication is central to the post-2015 development agenda, then water and sanitation must be included."

Chan said access to basic sanitation is the most off-track of all the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and must be improved to decrease global poverty. Chan also said the proper governance of water, to ensure access to the people, is critical.

"Water sustains life and health, but it also fuels industrial development and economic growth," Chan said. "In a world of growing water scarcity, this situation pits health concerns against the business interests of powerful economic operators. Again, this underscores the importance of the governance issues being discussed during this summit."