Church, health & solidarity

Vatican Water Project Will Save Lives

Photo courtesy of the Daughters of Charity in Masanga, Tanzania taken prior to water system installation in 2020.



A Gospel cry for help: Sisters, Catholic dioceses, and other churches send their members to live the Gospel mandate to provide water to those in need and care to the sick. (Mt.25:40) and yet the isolation and poverty of the areas where they dare to serve often hinders their abilities to do so.


In healing ministries in 47 least developed countries, according to a recent report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization [1], 50% of health care facilities do not have basic water or sanitation systems. Without reliable access to clean water, and despite heroic efforts, infections rage and result in suffering and death. Sickness and death at all ages from newborns to elderly patients and sometimes of the staff dedicated to their care are common.


Many of the health care facilities in these disadvantaged health areas are run by faith based groups including Catholic congregations and dioceses. Therefore, the Vatican initiated a water and hygiene initiative for health care facilities following the work resulting in the document Aqua fons vitae [2] (Water is a Source of Life). At the invitation of Cardinal Peter Turkson to dioceses around the world and to congregations known to have health care facilities, personnel from 151 locations in 23 countries covering areas that offer health care to some 28 million people were surveyed. Staff reported on the items basic to water, sanitation, and hygiene systems [3] that were or were not present in their facilities. The reports were analyzed for small and major needs as well as approximate cost of upgrades.


On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, the information and requests were shared with a select group of about 100 potential supporters. The need for funding and support, the involvement of professional water engineers, community-benefit and involvement, and sustainability were emphasized. Action and negotiations for obtaining these components will continue and opportunities for involvement are available. The Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development will publish a progress report in December, 2021.


Consistent with the church’s pro-life ethic, the Vatican’s water and hygiene initiative for health care facilities is an investment in life. 


Sister Mary Louise Stubbs, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, directs the D.C. International Project Services office and is a member of the Vatican committee on water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities. For more information on the Vatican initiative, contact

Vatican New articles:[4]







[3] Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Health Care Facilities are frequently referred to as WASH in HCFs