A man carries yellow jerrycans filled with water away from a brownish lake.
Lucas Ndeti fetches water from a small lake created by a dam near Senda, Kenya. Open water sources like this one are easily contaminated by bacteria, parasites and other harmful pollutants.

Why Do Some Nations Lack Access to Clean Water?

According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2.2 billion people on Earth do not have safe, clean water at home. Of those, about 785 million people cannot collect safe water in 30 minutes or less, and 144 million people are drinking untreated surface water. In developing countries, such as Kenya, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, many families are forced to drink from the only sources available to them — polluted rivers, streams, ponds or shallow, unprotected wells contaminated by life-threatening bacteria, chemical runoff, parasites, insect larvae, animal feces and even human waste.

WHO estimates that around 829,000 people — almost 36% of them children under 5 — are dying each year from diarrhea caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation and hand hygiene. But why do some countries suffer so acutely from the unavailability of clean water while others (such as the United States) can easily access abundant crystal-clear H20 at the turn of a tap?

Let’s explore that question — and what we can do to provide a solution.

A woman draws a bucket of murky water from a small pond filled with lily pads.
A woman in the village of Mukolobeke, Zambia, collects water from a murky pond. In many communities, such water sources are making families sick — but they have no other option for quenching their thirst.

What Are the Main Causes of Water Scarcity in Developing Nations?

Many factors contribute to water shortages in Africa, Central America and other regions around the world. Some of those factors are:

  • Dry seasons and drought conditions. Many countries experience long dry seasons, when little to no rainfall is expected. Parts of Kenya, for instance, experience two dry seasons — one from June through October and another from December to March. During these periods, many small rivers and streams dry up. These countries can also be susceptible to drought-like conditions when precipitation is unusually low during the traditional rainy season, extending dry conditions over many more months. Kenya is currently experiencing its worst drought in 40 years.
  • Periodic flooding. Ironically, the same regions that experience extended periods of dryness can also be susceptible to extended periods of torrential rainfall. When this occurs, the loose and dusty earth suddenly turns to mud and landslides become a hazard. Dirt and debris wash into rivers and lakes, turning them brown and contaminating them even further. For example, flooding caused by tropical storm Ana and Cyclone Gombe has launched a cholera outbreak in Malawi, infecting more than 6,000 people and claiming at least 183 lives.
  • Pollution. Open, untreated water sources often become polluted. This is particularly true when people must share their water sources with animals that bathe and leave droppings in the pond or stream. If local communities have old or improperly constructed latrines, human waste can infiltrate the local water supply. As it seeps into the soil, it can leak into unprotected wells. Heavy rains create problems as well. The runoff carries mud and dirt — as well as chemicals from farming fertilizers and pesticides — into streams, ponds and lakes. Countries such as Zambia that engage in heavy mining activity may also experience acid rain, further contaminating their bodies of water.
  • Lack of infrastructure. Developing nations often lack the resources to install infrastructure for running water, clean wells or water treatment facilities, especially in remote, rural communities that may be difficult to reach. The United Nations reports that 8 out of 10 people who lack basic drinking water services live in rural areas — the same rural areas where most of the world’s poverty is concentrated. In addition to lacking clean water, many such communities lack access to paved roads, quality schools, electricity and other developments that could improve their lives.

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A young girl pumps water from a hand pump well while another girl drinks from its spout.
A girl in Babile, Ghana, pumps water so her friend can take a drink. This hand pump well, funded by Cross Catholic Outreach and installed by the Diocese of Wa, has blessed the community abundantly.

How Does Cross Catholic Outreach Provide Communities With Clean Water — and Why Is Our Help Needed?

To ensure that a safe water system will last for years to come, it is necessary for a development team to follow several important steps. First, a geological survey is arranged to discover the best drilling sites. This provides the drilling team with the highest probability of striking water, removing guesswork and preventing them from wasting time and money by taking a hit-and-miss approach to the job.

Next, the team needs to drill into the deep aquifer and properly install a pipe to keep out contaminants and prevent the borehole from collapsing. The development team must also confirm the quality of the water the drillers have tapped. To accomplish that, water is sent to a lab for testing. This ensures that what is drawn from the well is completely safe for human consumption.

At this point, other system components can be installed, such as a manual or electrical pump, taps, and — in cases where a powered pump is used but no source of electricity is present — solar panels. Many systems also include water storage tanks that allow people to easily access stored water.

Poor, remote communities in developing nations are not able to afford this process — but it is the only way to ensure a water source is properly drilled and used. That’s where Cross Catholic Outreach (and compassionate friends like you) can help! Your contribution ensures a new well is properly installed so future generations can count on it producing safe water.

Our Catholic ministry partners in developing nations have the knowledge and local connections needed to provide enduring sources of safe, clean water for communities in desperate need. What they lack are the funds to finance those outreaches. You can make the wells and water systems they have planned a reality.

Please consider funding a water project for a community in need. Struggling families have been praying for relief — a safe source of water to quench their thirst and protect them from waterborne diseases — and you can help Church leaders provide the blessing those poor men, women and children desperately need!

A priest blesses a small water dispensary building while the locals look on.
Fr. Fabian blesses a water dispensing kiosk in Lukenya, Kenya. Thanks to Cross Catholic Outreach donors, about 4,000 people gained access to safe water that day.

How You Can Improve Access to Clean Water Around the World

Faithful dioceses and ministries are fighting to relieve the world’s water crisis, and they are asking you for two things:

  1. Your faithful prayers. Our ministry partners have often experienced incredible breakthrough, God-ordained encounters, miraculous provision, and favor and cooperation from local authorities — and they know the prayers of the Church are critical to that success.
  2. Your generous giving. Your donations make it possible for these missions of mercy to install high-quality wells and water systems for communities in deepest need. Each gift you make helps guarantee safe water (as well as greater health and hope) for the poor.

One great way to support water relief programs is through our Christmas Catalog. For example, your generosity can help Father Fabian Hevi in Kenya install water systems that will relieve the burden on families impacted by the severe drought. Through the years, Cross Catholic Outreach has empowered him to provide clean water for more than 470,000 Kenyans. Help us extend that blessing to even more communities this year!

To support this important mission of mercy, please donate below. Supplying poor families with safe water is a powerful way to extend Christ’s peace, hope and joy during this blessed season. Join us to guarantee that Kenya’s neediest families will have access to safe, clean water in the new year!