CHRISTIANS, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists in the UK have joined together to found a new charity to tackle water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues in the world’s poorest countries.
Faith in Water, based in Bristol, is the first charity to work specifically with faith schools to improve basic living conditions for children in developing countries. The charity is also working to build stronger links between NGOs and faith groups.
The latest figures from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) estimate that 32 per cent of the world’s population — 2.4 billion people — lacked improved sanitation facilities last year, and 663 million people used unimproved sources of drinking water. At least 1.8 billion people worldwide are estimated to drink water that is faecally contaminated.
The founder and director of Faith in Water, Mary Bellekom, said that clean water and good sanitation were “essential” for health, education, and livelihoods.
“Diseases caused by dirty water and inadequate sanitation not only trap people in a cycle of illness, poverty, and poor quality of life, they are the second biggest killer of children aged under five worldwide, and are responsible for more child deaths than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined,” she said.
“Helping people access clean water and safe sanitation is one of the most important ways we can improve people’s lives.” Working with faith groups was one of the most effective ways of doing so, she said, because they were involved with half the schools worldwide.
Faith in Water was formed out of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation in the UK, a secular body that works with faith leaders.
One of its first projects as a registered charity is the report Putting Clean Hands Together, sponsored by UNICEF, which looks at how faith schools and NGOs can work together. The report also looks at the “spiritual significance” of water.