International (MNN) — There are a lot of days designated to bringing awareness to worldwide causes and it can be overwhelming. But World Water Day, March 22, is not one to forget. According to Unicef and the WHO, 663 million people lack access to clean water.
Working toward clean water solutions
For ministries like Living Water International, World Water Day is a big deal. We spoke to Jonathan Wiles of Living Water who says, “It’s a chance each year to put a focus on water needs and particularly on the need for improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services in the developing world.”
Like any other awareness day, it serves to get people the facts and draw them in to help. “We’re at a very interesting time in terms of the water development sector,” Wiles says.
He explains that 15 years ago, 1.1 billion people did not have access to clean water. Now, that number has nearly been cut in half.
“That’s really encouraging,” he says. Even so, there’s a lot that locals still need to learn when they gain access to a better water source, namely sanitation and hygienic practices.
“Those are really the things that reduce disease burdens in communities once they have the clean water,” Wiles says.
There’s another problem that often presents itself. Many people who do use an improved water source still risk drinking biologically contaminated water.
On top of helping communities gain access to improved water sources, Living Water is focusing on water safety and sustainability.
“We have a set of very specific quality standards that we follow when we work in communities to make sure that water systems are installed in a way that’s sanitary and safe,” Wiles says.
Then they train locals how to monitor the water quality and provide them with a viable plan in case the water becomes contaminated in some way. They connect communities with local churches, institutions, and government agencies who can help.
It’s not just about water
Living Water is excited to have a day dedicated to raising awareness about the world’s water problems. But even more, they want more people to know what they’re doing to meet spiritual needs alongside the physical.
“Our unique take on this is really focused on the intersection of water and Living Water.”
Chances are, people who lack clean water also need to hear about Jesus. And so, they tell them.
“As we meet people’s physical needs, that that has not only physical but also spiritual consequences and that’s really a kind of reflection of the way that Jesus himself did his ministry when he was on earth.”
Partnering with churches to get the work done
Wiles says they work to support local churches to be able to help the people in their community. “As Christians we believe that the Church has been planted by God in communities to be his agent of transformation in those places.”
It’s part of their “integral mission” which is the Gospel proclaimed and demonstrated.
Living Water equips churches with the tools, technologies, and skills to better meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in the area.
Wiles believe religious institutions and leaders are extremely effective at helping communities learn and institute improved health behaviors. The advantage is that the people they help often want to learn about the church and as a result learn about the Gospel, as well.