Water: A Basic Human Need

Water has always been an important symbol for Christians. We use water in our baptism ritual. Christ turned water into wine and Catholics mix water into the wine that becomes Christ’s blood during our Mass. Water flowed from the side of Christ after his death on the cross.

Apart from its symbolic importance, water is necessary for our physical human existence. Most of us take water for granted, having plenty for consumption, cooking, washing, watering our lawns, etc. Yet, almost a billion people on the planet lack access to clean, safe drinking water. The result is that every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. In Africa, women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 40 pounds to gather water, and even that water is generally not safe for human consumption.

There are many things we can and do disagree about. But it seems to me that access to water is not one of them. In a Message to the Bishops of Brazil in 2004, Pope John Paul II wrote, “as a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival, thus everyone has a right to it”. In July of this year, the UN General Assembly declared that access to clean water is a human right.

There is a role for all of us here. At the most basic level, we can use our own resources wisely – and gratefully. We can also advocate on behalf of changes and support projects that will bring clean water to those people who lack it. Many people and organizations are doing terrific work on this issue.

Today is Blog Action Day 2010, the theme for which is water. You can find some great information on their website here. You can find some examples of Vincentian Family projects relating to this important issue here.