Every day, more than 844 million people struggle to acquire safe drinking water. A 2018 study found that 1 in 9 people travel more than 30 minutes per day just to collect water of any kind — often from contaminated sources that can cause chronic illnesses and fatigue.
The burden for collecting water overwhelmingly falls on women and girls, who lug containers weighing over 40 pounds across uneven terrain. Because they are only carrying enough water for one day, they may need to travel in extreme weather to ensure their families have something to drink.
Given the number of people in this position, it is believed a staggering 200 million hours per day are spent by poor families traveling to and from water collection sites — time that could be better spent on other activities like education, economic activities or spiritual growth.
When clean water is available, communities can begin to break the poverty cycle that has gripped them for generations. Read on below about how access to clean water impacts nearly every aspect of daily life and how Cross Catholic Outreach is working to quench the thirst of the poor, improve their health, and give them a personal encounter with Christ’s mercy.
When we provide clean water to a community, we see improvement in other development goals. Hygiene and health improve, education rates rise, food production increases, and there is less damage to the environment.
Good WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) practices are vital to good health. Unfortunately, many developing countries struggle to maintain health standards, and waterborne diseases spread like wildfire from contaminated water as a result. These illnesses cause frequent diarrhea, poor nutritional absorption and a host of other health problems. Have you ever experienced a stomach bug or food poisoning? For millions of people across the globe, living with that kind of pain can be an everyday challenge.
How significant are the risks? Sadly, cholera and other waterborne illnesses that stem from inadequate WASH are a leading cause of death for children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.
When the Church helps poor families gain better access to clean water and provides education about good WASH practices, lives are transformed. Instead of spending their childhood sick and exhausted, boys and girls have time for sports, gain more benefits from their education, and learn about the Lord.
The lack of access to clean water is a major barrier to school attendance, especially for girls. In households without a home or community tap, children are responsible for collecting water for their families, and that process can take several hours a day. This often makes students late for school. Or worse, any children miss classes because they are struggling with waterborne illnesses. Girls usually find it even more challenging to attend, because poor WASH practices and a lack of access to bathroom facilities at school force girls to stay home during their menstrual cycles. If communities and schools can simply be provided with clean water, millions of children around the world can access the education they need in order to accomplish their goals.
In addition to the impact on health and education, water crises can disrupt food production and cause damage to local ecosystems. Water shortages and droughts can drastically reduce crop yields, leaving families without enough food to survive. Without access to abundant water, some families must even choose between drinking water and using it to sustain their crops. In those cases, they may risk severe dehydration.
A poor harvest produces economic challenges as well. When crop yields are low, family income drops because there are no excess fruits or vegetables to sell. This means purchasing necessities, paying for children’s school fees or even buying seeds for the following year is now extremely difficult and often impossible. If communities don’t have enough water to grow crops to feed people’s families and sell at the market, they must find another way to make enough to buy other essential goods.
Case Study: Zambia
Since 1960, Zambia’s average rainfall has fallen by 2.3% per decade. Farmers have watched their crops wither and their livestock die from prolonged and severe droughts. To survive, many have turned to charcoal production to feed their families. The former farmers will sell baskets of charcoal alongside the road, sourced from hardwood forests and protected reserves. This has caused rapid deforestation in Zambia, damaging the ecosystem.
The good news is there is groundwater. The Zambians are simply unable to access it due to a lack of equipment. CCO is working with the Church in Zambia to drill wells to access the water beneath their feet. By providing these communities with the equipment they need in order to drink clean water and water their crops, you are giving them a tangible demonstration of God’s love.
Providing communities with access to clean water has a ripple effect on every other aspect of their lives. Clean water helps break the cycle of poverty and allows communities to dream of a brighter, more prosperous future for their children. This Christmas season, help us share the gift of God’s love by providing fresh, lifesaving water to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Proceeds 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.