Celebrating World Water Day

The problem of water shortage is a worldwide problem Photo: Pedro França/Agência Senado

Have you ever been in a desert and suffered terrible thirst? Maybe no. Today, you don’t have to be or to live in a desert to know what thirst and water crisis are all about. Millions of people around the world lack access to clean drinkable water, which is one of essential requirements of life. You and I may be among the few lucky ones, who don’t have to struggle or queue for this crucial commodity. That is why we may not remember that 22nd of March 2024 will be World Water Day.

By Jonah M. Makau *

Naturally, water scarcity occurs when the demand for safe water in a given area is higher than the supply? Given that the availability of water means life, lack of water means not only lack of sustainable food supply, but also poor health living conditions. Poor living conditions means not just the lack of manpower for agricultural and industrial production, but death of a society. In fact, as the world grapples with the problem of migration today, it is evident that most of the people, who are forced to leave their homelands to look for greener pastures are actually pushed by adverse climatical conditions, one of which is lack of drinking water and water for agricultural activities.

As the world gets engulfed into endless wars motivated by competition among nations, greed for money of arms trade, and political egos, it should be noted that soon wars will be fought over the availability of safe drinking water. As powerful governments continue participating in climate change conferences and doing nothing after that, the problem of water scarcity continues approaching a crisis level, which will see water bodies militarised. In truth, there is a very close, complex and intertwined relationship between sustainable water management, prosperity and peace. It is not difficult to see that progress in one dimension can have positive repercussions on the others, and therefore a decline in one dimension affects the others in one way or another. 

Children carry water in the Loyangallani region, northern Kenya. Photo: Jaime C. Patias

According to United Nations World Water Development Report (UN WWDR) 2024, developing and maintaining a secure and equitable water future strengthens prosperity and peace for all. The report also underlines how poverty and inequality, social tensions, and conflict can amplify water insecurity. The 2024 UNWWR report will be launched at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 22 March 2024. The launch is organized by UNESCO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the co-chairs of the World Water Day 2024 campaign, on behalf of UN-Water.

As we celebrated this year’s World Water Day, and as the relevant bodies do their part in sensitizing people on the crisis of water and the necessity of using well the precious commodity, it is paramount for each one on us to reflect on the matter. We cannot forget that even in spiritually, water carries an essential meaning. It is a sign of life, rejuvenating capacity and transforming power. That is why water and its cleansing power is part of the many themes presented in the sacred scripture. So, as we celebrate this day, as followers of Christ who are called to be and live like him, we should not forget our duty to help those who are vulnerable. At least, looking at what Jesus did whenever he found himself in front of people who were lacking something essential, we should not forget what he would have done if he was in our shoes today. We however do not need to imagine what our lord would have done. Do you know why? I will tell you.

The lord taught us in the example of the five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt. 14:17-21) that whatever is presented to God in prayer, comes out with transforming power. Maybe we may not have the powers to multiply water, but we certainly need the lord to touch the hearts of many people who are destroying our forests and water catchment areas, so that they may be sober and stop the madness that is likely to destroy all of us. More importantly, in the same example, Jesus showed us how generosity of individual persons and their love for unity in the community can transform the plight of many other people.

Like the boy who offered the few loaves of bread and the fish, we too must learn to share essential resources. This is therefore an invitation to all of us, to overcome egoism and individualism, vices which have made some people in the world to carve water bodies for themselves and their commercial interests, leaving millions languishing in hunger.  

Let us pray for many Consolata Missionaries in the world, who in their pastoral activities, include the provision of clean water to the people of God, because through the people they serve, the missionaries everyday hear the words of Jesus, “I am thirsty” (Jn. 19:28). May the lord also help us, so that through cries of the poor for love, understanding and mercy, we too may hear his expression of thirst to the Samaritan woman: “give me something to drink” (Jn. 4:7).

* Fr. Jonah M. Makau, IMC, is taking a course of postulation in the Lateran Pontifical University in Rome.