Pope Francis spoke of the importance of increasing access to clean drinking water around the world Thursday, calling current statistics “a huge shame for the humanity.”
“Water is essential for life. In many parts of the world, our brothers and sisters cannot have a dignified life because of the lack of access to clean water,” Pope Francis told participants in an international conference in Rome Nov. 8.
Worldwide, 2.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water according to the World Health Organization’s 2015 statistics. This means that at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces, the WHO explains.
“The dramatic statistics of thirst, especially the situation of those people who get sick and often die because of unhealthy water, is a huge shame for the humanity of the 21st century,” Pope Francis said at the Pontifical Urban University.
Contaminated drinking water can lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. An estimated 842,000 people die from diarrhoea alone each year as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.
The Vatican conference, “Managing a Common Good: Access to Drinking Water for All” addressed solutions to this global issue through the creation of infrastructures, training, advocacy, and assistance to endangered populations whose water supply is compromised.
“The Holy See and the Church are committed to access to drinking water for all,” Pope Francis said.
The Dicastery for Integral Human Development organized the conference in partnership with the U.S., French, Italian, and Monegasque embassies to the Holy See.
Pope Francis said, “In every thirsty man we perceive the same image of God, as we read in Matthew's Gospel: ‘I was thirsty and you gave me no drink.’”