The first global interfaith initiative to promote safe water, sanitation and hygiene was launched today. The partnership will bring together faith-based organizations committed to tackling pressing social problems that impede the health and rights of children around the world.
The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, or GIWA, envisions a water-secure world in which safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation will be accessible to all by the year 2020. An estimated 5 billion people across the world are members of religious communities, underscoring the criticalrole religious leaders can play in addressing seemingly intractable problems - such as access to safe water and sanitation.
Lack of adequate sanitation is a global crisis directly impacting health, education, productivity and economic status. Every day diarrhoea - the second largest killer of children under five in the developing world - claims over 1600 young lives.
"Our world has lost millions of beautiful children due to poor water, hygiene and sanitation," said Pujya Swamiji, GIWA co-founder and President & Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram. "Today, leaders of the world's faiths are saying, enough."
"Clean water and sanitation should not be a distant dream for children and communities," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. "They should be a reality. And this alliance can help bring their dreams much closer." Religious communities are already an indispensable partner for UNICEF in advancing children's rights and enhancing their well-being. In terms of promoting water and sanitation efforts, partners of GIWA can point to significant achievements, among them:
Expanding access to sanitation and eliminating open defecation can save lives and reduce cases of diarrhoea in children under five by over a third. Yet two years shy of the Millennium Development Goals deadline, only 64 percent of the global population has improved sanitation, far short of the 75 per cent MDG target. And while the international community has reached its MDG water target, more than 768 million people still lack access to improved drinking water sources.
Safe drinking water and improved sanitation not only reduce diarrhoea and stunting, but they are often the catalyst that can propel a family out of poverty. They are basic human rights as well as foundations upon which healthy and productive societies may thrive. Without them, children cannot survive and communities cannot grow and prosper. Investing in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, therefore is an investment in the health and livelihoods of future generations.
"We are called to sanctify time and dedicate the next 7 years, every hour, every second to the provision of clean water and improved sanitation," said Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, GIWA co-founder and President and Founder of the Institute for Human Values. "Living water will be in reach of the whole community of life and thus hope will propel us to action."
The seed for the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance was planted earlier this year at "Wings for Water," a multi-stakeholder dialogue held in The Hague in advance of the World Water Day celebrations. Included among GIWA's founding partners are: Institute for Human Values (The Netherlands), Ganga (Ganges) Action Parivar, (India), Elijah Interfaith Institute (Israel), the All India Organization of Imams of Mosques, the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, the Ecumenical One World Initiative (Germany), and Inner Sense (The Netherlands).
In order to achieve its goal to fulfill the MDGs and achieve a water secure world by 2020, GIWA will bring together faith-based organizations, aid agencies and religious communities working on WASH; mainstream good practices of faith-based WASH initiatives; engage the world's religions in advocacy work to ensure that governments take seriously their responsibilities to guarantee the human right to water and sanitation; and spearhead concrete actions to enhance public health by promoting Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). GIWA's aim is to empower religious and spiritual communities to take action on WASH and bring a spirit of collaboration and compassion into existing networks and planned international events on WASH.
For further information, please contact:
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati Press Liaison of GIWA and the Ganga Action Parivar at sadhviji [at] gangaaction.org
Michael Slaby, GIWA Manager at the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values: mslaby [at] soetendorp.org Cell: +49 171 5256908