Water is for much more than drinking or washing: it is essential for human dignity
Water is not just a simple necessity for human life; it is core to religious traditions, to social practices and to basic dignity for people the world over. Much attention is paid by secular charities to the supply of clean drinking water, but it is needed for so much more.
The UK charity Faith in Water, which grew out of the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC), works with faith groups to promote the need for clean water and the importance of WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – for everyone.
Pupils in Uganda enjoy the new hand washing station installed next to the latrines. Picture: FaithInWater
Faith in Water works with faith schools and communities precisely to raise awareness of the importance of WASH. A prime example is its work with Muslim and Christian groups in Indonesia, Kenya and Uganda, encouraging them to focus more on water, sanitation and hygiene in their teachings, traditions and practices.
The results have been impressive. At Ebukoola primary school in Kenya there are 80 per cent fewer cases of water borne diseases among pupils, and 80 per cent less absenteeism rates due to illness as a result. At Gisire Academy, also in Kenya, there was no water supply at all. After David Chacha, the head teacher, attended a training session organised by Faith in Water's partner organisation, ARC, he decided to install an 8,000 litre rainwater harvesting tank. This has greatly improved hygiene and sanitation and saved money because the school doesn't need to buy water, except in the dry season.
Results are not limited to individual schools. In each country where Faith In Water works, good practice has spread by example – with the message that clean water and decent sanitation is essential for children's health at the heart of all they do.
Why is WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) important?
Dirty water and inadequate sanitation are the second biggest killer of children aged under five worldwide. More than a third of the world's population – 2.5 billion people – lack adequate sanitation facilities. And one in nine – 750 million – lack access to safe drinking water.
Water and cleanliness play a role in belief and practice in many faiths. Linking those beliefs to practical action adds a powerful motivator for behaviour change.
Engaging faith schools
Faith groups are involved in more than 50 per cent of schools worldwide. Working with faith schools offers a unique opportunity to engage the wider community. That's because they are usually part of a bigger faith structure – one that is highly trusted and influential.