Today we celebrate World Water Day — a day to recognize the critical importance of fresh, safe water. The idea for this special day was suggested to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, and on March 22, 1993, the first World Water Day was declared. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the event.
One of the key purposes of the day is to educate people about water-related issues, including the problem of water scarcity in many parts of the world.
For example, did you know that every 15 seconds, a child in a developing country dies of cholera or some other waterborne disease? This is because impoverished families are often forced to rely on contaminated water from tainted sources — polluted rivers, improperly dug wells or open cisterns teeming with bacteria.
Even when a village does have some access to a safe well, it can be a hardship to use. Women and children may need to walk for miles each day to collect the water, and returning with the heavy burden can be treacherous on rocky rural paths.
Fortunately, priests, nuns and parish missions overseas are working hard to provide solutions, and with contributions from American Catholics, positive changes are taking place. At Cross Catholic Outreach, for example, we regularly empower such groups to build wells in needy villages, and many of those safe water sources have helped save children who might otherwise have fallen prey to waterborne illnesses.
These outreaches have an obvious, tangible impact, but Cross Catholic Outreach also sees them as essential to its spiritual mission.
In the story of Jesus in the New Testament, as the Lord completed His work on the cross, He said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Providing water for the needy was also a central theme in Jesus’ discourse about the Day of Judgement. How those with resources provide for those without reflects on one’s treatment of the Lord:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
At Cross Catholic Outreach, researching water needs and funding special initiatives to supply safe sources is an annual priority. Our “I Thirst” project is one example. Through it, we are empowering a ministry partner in Nicaragua to:
- Provide two community water systems offering 24-hour access to clean water at every household.
- Replace unsanitary latrines with modern bathrooms including toilets, sinks and showers.
- Test and treat families for parasites and kidney disease.
- Encourage and empower the poor and vulnerable with the love of Christ.