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US can help solve Africa’s water woes

JASON WARNER accurately portrays as “an emerging force to be reckoned with” (“US can’t take Africa for granted, Op-ed, June 25). However, some of the growing economies that Warner mentions cannot be sustained for long due to one major factor — lack of safe drinking water.

Waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera are rampant. Life expectancy hovers around 50 years or less, and food- and waterborne diseases may be a major contributing factor.

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Kenya and Cameroon, two countries that I’ve visited, lacked basic water and wastewater infrastructure. And that’s where the United States can play a major role in helping Africa’s fledgling democracies that are friendly to the United States by helping them build their water infrastructure.

Chinese and French firms are already doing a lot of work there, but US firms are virtually absent. Massachusetts is a great example of a place that has taken steps to protect our watersheds to ensure purity of our drinking water supplies, but such protections do not exist in developing African countries, and the consequences are devastating. Although the United States has provided some assistance in doing feasibility studies in a number of countries, a more robust engagement is needed.

It will not only promote political stability, but also bring mutual economic benefits to the United States and the host countries. That is very important from a geopolitical perspective as well.

M. Ilyas Bhatti

Associate professor
of construction management

Wentworth Institute
of Technology

Boston

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