Woman holds a water bucket outside her home in Sing’nuni, Zambia.
Nalyvness Phiri, 74, is a widow living alone in Sing’nuni, Zambia. Without help, it is extremely difficult for her to draw water from the polluted village pond.

World Water Day 2022: Fighting the Global Water Crisis Through Catholic Missions

Around the world, more than 2 billion people lack access to safe water. Many families sacrifice hours to search for water each day — and often, the water they find and collect actually puts their lives at risk because it is contaminated with unseen pollutants or parasites.

Every human being needs water to survive, so we believe that every child of God should have access to clean, abundant water. As World Water Day approaches, we invite you to explore the urgent need for water worldwide and learn about the Catholic ministries that you can support to make a difference.

What Is the Global Water Crisis?

The global water crisis is the state of emergency that exists for families struggling to survive without easy access to our most basic human essential — clean, safe water. The World Health Organization reports that about 2.2 billion people are living without clean, protected, readily available water at home. Of those, about 785 million do not even have basic water services (meaning they cannot collect safe water within 30 minutes or less), and another 144 million are drinking untreated surface water. These families must contend with a variety of life-threatening challenges, including:
  • • Waterborne diseases. Unprotected sources (such as rivers, streams and shallow hand-dug pits) are often polluted with dirt, debris, insect larvae, and both human and animal waste. As a result, families contract illnesses such as bilharzia, typhoid, and bacterial and protozoal diarrhea.
  • Malnutrition. Many families that lack access to basic water services also lack sufficient nutrition. Frequent vomiting and diarrhea caused by waterborne diseases depletes undernourished bodies of the critical nutrients they need in order to survive.
  • • Attack or assault. Women and children are usually responsible for collecting water in their communities. To reach distant water sources before school or work begins, they often leave the house before sunrise. Some have suffered snakebites, wild animal attacks, robberies and other unspeakable dangers in the dark.
These families also suffer a tragic loss of time. Women and children walk for miles, stand in lengthy lines, wait for trickling water to fill their heavy buckets, and then make the laborious journey home. This painstaking chore can consume hours each day, leaving little time for school, work, spiritual formation and other enriching activities that could improve families’ lives. Read: Water Crisis in Zambia
Woman holds a water bucket near a pond in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia.
Susan Mwanza struggles to collect water from the local pond — a contaminated stew of dirt, bacteria and insect larvae.

What Is World Water Day?

In 1993, the United Nations declared March 22 as World Water Day. This observance raises awareness of the men, women and children living without safe water around the world.

Pope Francis recognizes World Water Day each year and has often emphasized the critical importance of caring for the thirsty and stewarding our water resources responsibly. In the Holy Father’s second encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” he wrote, “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

This year’s World Water Day focuses specifically on groundwater. As families travel back and forth to distant water sources, they are actually treading over a refreshing water source that exists beneath that very ground. Even in the world’s driest communities, pure water lives deep beneath the earth’s surface — but without the finances or equipment to drill, communities have no way to access that lifesaving source.

Donate to Provide Clean Water

The people of Sagalla, Kenya, gather to bless their new water system.
A community in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya, gathers to praise God for a new water system, funded through Cross Catholic Outreach. This water system received a special blessing from Archbishop Hubertus Matheus Maria Van Megen, the apostolic nuncio to Kenya.

Delivering Water Relief Through Catholic Missions

Catholic leaders in developing nations are aware of their regions’ water challenges, and with Pope Francis’ encouragement, they are striving to provide solutions for communities in need. These local leaders do not have the financial resources to drill a deep well or construct a water system on their own, but by working together as the Church, we can combine our resources to bring relief in Christ’s name.

This fiscal year, Cross Catholic Outreach is working to fund 24 water and sanitation projects in 12 developing countries. Some of these projects are already complete and others are still in progress, but together, they will eliminate the burden of water scarcity for more than 225,000 people.

With the generous support of U.S. Catholics, these projects are accomplishing goals such as:

  • Digging personal wells for 63 families in the Bolivian highlands.
  • Constructing water systems for 23 communities in Kenya.
  • Building and repairing latrines to defend the health and dignity of more than 1,000 people in Ethiopia.

By supporting Catholic outreaches that are delivering water relief, you not only quench thirst but also refresh families with the Living Water that only flows from Christ. Together, we can reach out through the loving arms of the global Catholic Church to remind struggling families that our Lord has heard their prayers and cares about their need for safe water.

Read: Matthew’s Gospel Inspires Catholics to Provide Clean Water

Two girls draw water from a ground hole near Kokya, Ghana.
In Kokya, Ghana, Evelyn Doo (left) has no choice but to quench her thirst with contaminated water from this unprotected pit. She walks a long way to reach its location, and she is often late for school as a result. A clean well could transform her life!

Give Water and Transform Lives

There are many opportunities for you to put faith into action and quench the thirst of the poor. For example, our Wells of Salvation campaign is currently working to provide 65 clean wells for communities in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia. It will also improve access to sanitation and Catholic education, blessing nearly 52,000 lives in total.

Outreaches such as these can transform lives — eliminating waterborne diseases, restoring families’ time, and defending the safety of women and children. To succeed, these missions need our financial support.

Please give generously to stand with Cross Catholic Outreach and the devoted priests, sisters and lay leaders who are working to give clean water in Christ’s name. Your donation will refresh weary souls and make a profound impact as we fight to alleviate the world’s water crisis.

Remember — Jesus said: “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40)

Give the gift of clean water today!

Read: How the 3 Pillars of Lent Can Alleviate Malawi’s Water Crisis

Donations from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.