Ugandan Bishop urges governments to be more ‘faith literate’

The Rt Rev George Katwesigye, the Bishop of Kigezi in Uganda, has challenged government donors to be more ‘faith literate’ and to release the largely untapped potential of the local church in tackling the sanitation crisis in the world’s poorest countries.

The Bishop of Kigezi, who is in the UK this week to launch Tearfund’s new report, Keeping Communities Clean: The church’s response to improving sanitation and hygiene, says, “While toilets and taps are things that many in the UK take for granted, millions of people around the world – including almost half of the people in my own country - lack access to clean water and a safe place to go to the toilet.”

The UN estimates that 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation and 900 million people are without clean water.

“The impact of this crisis has a human face. Every minute three children under the age of five die because of poor sanitation or dirty water. It is a scandal and entirely preventable,” the Bishop adds.

Tearfund’s report, Keeping Communities Clean, argues that the local church is uniquely placed to help tackle the sanitation crisis and calls for governments to work more closely with church groups. The report also challenges the local church to do more to explain the distinctive role it can play to governments and donors.

“The local church has a distinctive contribution to make, rooted at the heart of its community and knowing firsthand the burden of poverty on people’s lives. But the true extent of the church’s potential – in providing clean water and sanitation, shaping attitudes and changing behaviour - remains largely untapped,” says the Bishop of Kigezi.

The Bishop’s Diocese of Kigezi, supported by Tearfund, has helped to improve access to clean water and sanitation for over 200,000 people since 1986, by helping communities to install water tanks, build latrines and improve basic hygiene. Its work has been recognised by government donors in the UK, EU and USA.

Keeping Communities Clean warns that at the current rate, the global target to halve the proportion of people lacking basic sanitation by 2015, will be missed by almost a century. The water target will be missed by 20 years in the poorest parts of the world.

Laura Webster, Tearfund’s Head of Policy. “This is clearly too little too late. Poor sanitation and dirty water has a knock-on effect on health and education. Without better access to sanitation and clean water, we will struggle to reduce the number of children who die before their fifth birthday and get children into school.

“That’s why we’ve made Make Life Flow our major campaign this year, because it’s becoming even more urgent that we bring the issues of water and sanitation to the attention of the public and of policy-makers,” she adds.

During his visit to the UK, the Bishop of Kigezi will be urging churches in London, Manchester, South Wales and Belfast to support Tearfund’s Make Life Flow campaign, which calls for an action plan by the end of 2010 to ensure the 2015 Millennium Development Goal will be met.