Salesian Missions joins UN-Water, the organization that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation, and the international community in celebrating World Water Day. Every year since 1993, the international community has celebrated World Water Day on March 22, focusing attention on the importance of safe, clean water while advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The day also serves as a reminder of the global population who suffer from water-related issues and a call to action to prepare for management of water in the future.
Each year, UN-Water sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. This year’s theme is ‘Water and Jobs’ and highlights the positive effects of having enough quality water to change workers’ lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies. UN Water notes that almost half of the world’s workers, 1.5 billion people, work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs either depend on water or ensure its safe delivery. Yet, the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labor rights.
UN-Water estimates that worldwide 768 million people lack access to improved water sources and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. For those who have no access to clean water, water-related disease is common with more than 840,000 people dying each year from water-related diseases. Women and children often bear the primary responsibility for water collection in the majority of households and globally, spend 140 million hours a day collecting water. Children in these communities are forced to walk for hours to collect drinking water—water that often proves contaminated and seriously sickens those who consume it. Many others are unable to attend school regularly because they must spend time searching for distant wells.
In response to this crisis, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has made building wells and supplying fresh, clean water, a top priority for every community in every country in which Salesian missionaries work.
“Having access to clean water is essential for life and brings a sense of dignity to the children and families we serve in our programs,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Improving water and sanitation facilities also ensures that teachers and students are working and learning in an environment that promotes proper hygiene and has safe drinking water, reducing the number of waterborne illnesses that can affect those in our schools keeping them away from important study time.”
In honor and celebration of World Water Day 2016, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs around the globe that provide clean, safe water to those most in need.
Close to 4,000 youth, parents, Salesian staff and community members are benefiting from two water projects at Salesian training and vocational centers in the city of Lubumbashi in the southeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Salesian-run Kansebula St Jean Bosco Institute and Chem Chem Center have nearly completed the renovation of existing water systems which were outdated, wasting energy and had insufficient quantities of water.
Salesian missionaries began the two water projects to ensure clean fresh water for the students and the sustainability of the water sources for their facilities. At Kansebula, the project consists of erecting a high water tower and two 2,500 liter water tanks in connection to the existing water system. Once completed, this project will improve water management and protect the water pump in use. At Chem Chem the project entails upgrading the existing water system to allow proper quantities of clean water for students. This is being accomplished by deepening the existing well, erecting a high water tower and installing two 2,500 liter water tanks.
Ethiopia is experiencing the worst drought the country has seen in more than 50 years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently announced that agricultural assistance for the upcoming rainy season in Ethiopia is essential to help the drought-affected people as one of the strongest El Niño events on record continues to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders.
Salesian missionaries and volunteers with the International Volunteers for Development (VIS) are concerned that the devastating drought is forcing residents to flee the country making them vulnerable to illegal migration (particularly to Europe and the Middle East), exploitation and human traffickers who are already taking advantage of the crisis. Using deep wells built by VIS volunteers in recent years, Salesian missionaries and volunteers are currently distributing water to schools, hospitals and first aid clinics, centers for street children, women’s refuges and diocesan centers. The goal during this emergency phase is to support the 12,000 residents of the Somali, Tigray and Oromia regions and those living in the South.
Salesian missionaries working at the Don Bosco St. Joseph School for Children in Ghanaur, a town in the Patiala district in the state of Punjab, India, have begun a construction project to update and improve facilities at the school making it more accessible to its more than 540 students. Currently, the school’s bathroom facilities are dilapidated, out-of-date and insufficient to accommodate the students and faculty.
Situated on the periphery of a large village, the school was created to serve poor students whose parents could not afford traditional school fees. It offers a full range of academic classes as well as recreational programs. Each year, the student population grows as more and more area families require access to affordable education. Due to its growing population, sanitation has been a major concern at the school and will be addressed by the recent construction project which will provide separate bathroom facilities for male and female students. To date, a well has been dug and the purchasing of materials and digging of pits are underway. Once enough funds are raised to complete the project, construction of the bathroom buildings will begin.
Salesian missionaries in the community of Rukago in the city of Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, just completed a water and sanitation project for the local Salesian school which had been in desperate need of new sanitation and safe drinking water. The project, funded by Salesian Missions, provided eight new toilets and repaired a water tank that provides clean drinking water for the students. Prior to the repair of the water tank, students had to walk more than a mile to collect water from a hill in a swampy area.
The construction project for the new toilets consisted of digging a pit, purchasing materials and constructing a beam, walls and roof. After that, doors were added and the new building was painted. Salesian missionaries expect that this new project will help local families save on medical expenses for treating children who develop water-related diseases and illnesses due to contaminated water. The new improvements will also give the school children better access to safe water so they can turn their attention and focus to their studies.
UN Water – World Water Day 2016