International (LWI/MNN) — Last week, UNICEF and the World Health
Organization (WHO) reported that the world has met the Millennium Development
Goal (MDG) for safe water supply, five years ahead of schedule.
The goal, created in 2000, was to "Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the
population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic
The good news frames the scope of World Water Day, March 22. It also underscores the reason Living Water International exists.
Over the last 22 years, with LWI's help, over two billion people have gained
access to safe drinking water. Progress
has outpaced population growth, which means teams are catching up. Today, 783 million people lack access to an
improved water source. That still sounds like a lot, right?
International CEO Mike Mantel agrees, but adds, "We are incredibly excited
about the progress we've made in the last decade. It's a testimony to what can
happen when communities, governments, organizations, and donors work together
with a common vision. We have to stay on course, though. There's still a lot
of work to be done."
The UNICEF/WHO report also revealed several challenges. Although access to water
increased, the research does not measure long-term sustainability or water
quality, which leaves the future still in question.
Another issue is inequity: countries categorized as "Least Developed" only
average 63% coverage, with many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still losing
ground. Globally, rural areas are lagging far behind urban areas, and the MDG
for sanitation is actually the furthest off track, with little hope of
meeting the goal by 2015.
Two years ago, Living Water began mobilizing to meet these
challenges. In 2011, they launched a five-year plan that would increase impact
through better community engagement, quality, accessibility, reliability of
water services, and integrated sanitation.
Developing programs that address these complex challenges takes time; partnerships must be developed, and research and testing must take place
before programs are scaled up. But each of these components will be
incorporated into all Living Water programs by 2015.
"When I see a massive global problem like the water crisis, I see an
opportunity for Christians to act," says Mantel. "Shouldn't the Church be
leading the way in addressing such a critical need? And while we're at it, we
can address the other number on our mind: the 2.8 billion people who have never
heard the good news about Jesus."
Living Water's strategy calls for deeper programs, which provide
opportunities to develop stronger relationships in communities. In addition to physical transformation, this approach enables LWI teams, alongside local churches, to better fulfill the biblical call to "make
disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).
Incredible progress is being made, both physically and spiritually. However,
much work remains, particularly among the most remote, the poorest, and most
disadvantaged people in the world.