Vatican: the WASH project and the importance of drinking water in healthcare facilities
Victor Vladimirov – Vatican City
The program was developed by the Vatican Department in collaboration with monastic congregations, episcopates, the International Caritas Foundation and the American organization Global Water 2020. The importance of sanitation has become even more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic: without water and proper hygiene, millions of people are at risk …
The department announced the creation of the WASH project on March 30, 2020 in a special message Aqua fons vitae (“Water, the source of life”). In August of the same year, he appealed to all episcopates of the world with an urgent request to ensure the proper conditions for the implementation of the project “in all medical centers of the Catholic Church for the safe treatment of patients, preventing further transmission of coronavirus and other diseases, as well as for the protection of medical personnel and chaplains.” The department asked local Churches to send their staff “to respond to the extreme volatility faced by some health centers operating in poor or isolated areas.” The letter emphasizes that the Church has been a pioneer in healthcare worldwide, serving everyone without distinction or preference.
At the forefront of this mission are the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God, better known as the Fatebenefratelli, serving 400 social and medical centers in 52 countries. Brother Angel Lopez, Director of the Office of Missions and International Cooperation of the General Curia of Bonifrathra, explained that “water is not only an indispensable resource: for us it is one of the most important and cheapest means of preventing and improving the health of people of all ages.”
Episcopal conferences, dioceses, parish communities and national Caritas chapters have responded to the appeal of the Vatican Department. Detailed assessments are being carried out in about 150 structures (ranging from small dispensaries to hospitals) in 22 countries, and cost estimates are being developed to understand how to sustainably improve the conditions for project implementation, as well as meet current standards for infrastructure, equipment, maintenance and training …
According to Aloysius John, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, this will help “prevent the spread of new diseases and provide dignified patient care in healthcare facilities.” Around the world, “many local Caritas chapters are running similar programs so that parishes, communities, health centers and schools have the means to protect the health of their wards.”
Preliminary estimates indicate an urgent need for action in some regions. Although the final report will be published at a later date, the Vatican Department is already working with interested partners and benefactors. David Douglas, Director of Global Water 2020 and Waterlines, has many years of experience in this area and believes that “new initiatives like the department’s current project are not only identifying but also solving complex WASH problems. The Holy See’s Call for Action helps to expand the safe and sustainable advancement of the project, and also inspires other organizations and governments that run medical facilities. ”
For her part, Maria Lia Zervino, President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (UMOFC), noted:
“The department’s appeal is fundamental. World Union women work tirelessly at a basic level across all continents caring for disadvantaged families, homeless people and the elderly vulnerable to COVID-19, and they are witnessing the urgent need for drinking water, which was lacking even before the pandemic began in high social risk areas. … Without investment in ensuring the right to safe drinking water for those most in need, all health education efforts will be in vain. ”
Organizations interested in participating in this initiative may contact Department of Service to Integral Human Development… The WASH project is linked to some of the department’s other initiatives that relate to caring for people and the planet, and in particular recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the light of responsibility and solidarity with the most vulnerable and weak, according to a press release from the Vatican department.