WORLD WATER DAY: Salesian Missions highlights work of ‘Clean Water Initiative’
The Salesian Missions ‘Clean Water Initiative’ ensures youth around the globe have access to clean, safe water.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March 22, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in celebrating World Water Day. Led by UN-Water, the organization that coordinates the United Nations’ work on water and sanitation, the day has been honored on March 22 every year since 1993.
The day focuses 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 suffers from water-related issues and sets calls to action to prepare for the 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, “Valuing Water,” focuses on the environmental, social and cultural value people place on water. UN-Water also launched a digital campaign with the hashtag #Water2me for people to tell their stories about what water means in their own lives.
UN-Water estimates that worldwide 2.2 billion people are living without access to safe water. One in four primary schools has no drinking water service, with students using unprotected water sources or going thirsty. In addition, UN-Water notes that more than 700 children under 5 years of age die every day from diarrheal disease linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
“Water is essential for life, which is why Salesian Missions has made it a priority that Salesian programs around the globe have access to safe, clean water for the health and safety of those we serve,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Improving water access brings a sense of dignity to children and ensures that teachers and students are working and learning in an environment that promotes proper hygiene and has safe drinking water. This reduces the number of waterborne illnesses that can affect those in our schools, keeping them away from important study time.”
In response to this ongoing water crisis, Salesian Missions has continued its “Clean Water Initiative”—which makes building wells and supplying fresh, clean water a top priority for every community in every country in which Salesian missionaries work.
Currently, Salesian Missions has two water projects in need of funding. Salesians in the West African Province are aiming to improve clean water access for the three Nigerian villages of Ishienu Amofu, Ohuani-Amofu and Imeoha Nkerefi. Constructing boreholes and a water system will improve clean water access for children, women and families in these rural communities. In Ebibeyín, Equatorial Guinea, Salesians have requested help to improve access to clean water in 18 rural villages where they are serving the people living in these remote communities. There are roughly 3,000 people at each site who would benefit from the new wells and holding tanks.
In honor of World Water Day, Salesian Missions is highlighting completed water projects that have impacted youth and entire communities.
The Don Bosco Center in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, has clean drinking water powered by solar electricity thanks to funding from the Salesian Missions “Clean Water Initiative.”
The “Sun Helps Us Succeed” project is providing drinking water using a solar pump. There had been a borehole dug and water tower ready, but the pump was required to complete the project. Photovoltaic installations are very appropriate in the area because it is sunny the whole year.
Opened in October 1993, the Don Bosco Center includes a technical school with 306 students and a home, which has 25 young people, ages 15-24. The youth center is frequented by close to 600 youth each week. The Don Bosco Center is open in the evening as a place for youth to gather and study. The center uses 30 solar energy lamps because there are so many local power outages and electric bills are very high. Using solar energy is a huge cost savings for the center.
To help support the new water access long-term, Salesian missionaries are charging a small fee to those from outside of the center grounds who come for large amounts of water, exceeding 50 liters each day. This will ensure the maintenance of the water tower equipment.
Salesian missionaries have been operating the Catholic mission station of Shuwuu, Mongolia, for the past four years, but families who live in this district have been accessing water from the Catholic mission since 1998. Throughout the year, people from the countryside come to the well to stock up on drinking water to take to their homes.
At least 300 families come to the well because they have no other clean water access. In many places in Mongolia, water is a rare commodity and is often brought to villages by tanker trucks. Services like this are especially popular with families and young people in Shuwuu, especially during challenging times.
Brother Andrew Le Phuong, director of the Salesian planning and development office in Ulaanbaatar, said, “Our hope is that clean water services and the other initiatives of the Salesians in Mongolia will become better known and attract more and more generous people around the world to contribute to our mission.”
People living in the Nkerefi community in the Enugu state of Nigeria have access to clean water thanks to funding from the Salesian Missions “Clean Water Initiative.” The funding provided for the implementation of a new water borehole. This will contribute to the livelihood of the local community, curtail the outbreak of waterborne diseases and infections, and help reduce the rate of women and infant mortality.
Clean water is a scarce commodity in Nkerefi. The majority of families depend on a small, brownish stream called Evuna that partially runs through parts of the villages. The Evuna stream is the only accessible water source for drinking, bathing, washing and cooking. The stream is seasonal, however, and dries up during the dry season. As a result, there is a severe shortage of potable water as few people can afford to develop wells due to the cost and the hard nature of the soil.
In addition, the Evuna water has been clinically confirmed to not be hygienic for consumption, especially drinking. The stream has been a source for waterborne-related diseases. There have been outbreaks of cholera, ringworm, tapeworms, acute diarrhea and dysentery linked to the water. Typhoid fever is also a disease among the inhabitants of the community, and each year there are a number of women and children lost to the disease.
The Salesian St. John Bosco Parish, in Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental, Philippines, has access to clean water thanks to a new project funded by the Salesian Missions “Clean Water Initiative.” The new water supply will serve the Salesian Youth Center, kindergarten, parish office and rectory. The project included the installation of pipelines for a new water source, construction of a raised stand for the water tank, and installation of a water tank and motor pump.
The Salesian parish population serves close to 15,000 people, 90 percent of whom are poor subsistence farmers and sugarcane plantation workers. The majority of the people depend on the government for the basic services that are, more often than not, inefficiently delivered.
Inside the parish compound, Salesian missionaries operate a kindergarten program, which prepares disadvantaged children for formal education. Among elementary students in the Philippines, children who attend kindergarten fare much better academically than those who don’t. However, most kindergarten programs are operated by private institutions that require tuition fees. Most parents in Minoyan only earn a meager income for food which leaves nothing for the cost of education.
In addition to classes, Salesian missionaries also offer pastoral activities and gatherings, requiring a steady water supply for the parish. Prior to the project, the Salesian parish received its water supply from an old source that was also supplying water to a large number of households in Minoyan, leading to an inadequate water supply for the parish.
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