American Catholics Asked to Help End Senseless Deaths of Children Affected by Contaminated Water

National Catholic Reporter, October 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

American Catholics Asked to Help End Senseless Deaths of Children Affected by Contaminated Water


Poverty kills. Just ask Jocelyn Joachins. One moment, her daughter Natacha was like any other baby--giggling and playful and a symbol of hope. The next, she was gone--the victim of a contaminated water supply. It was a painful death for the baby and an excruciating loss for Jocelyn.

"Unfortunately, I have seen this happen too often. In fact, the same month we lost Natacha, two other children died for the same reason. Jocelyn is poor and she scavenges for food and water like many families in Haiti's central plateau. Clean water has become very scarce and many families have been forced to use sources that are risky," explained Delva Jean Souverne, a church leader working in the area. "No child should die that way. No mother should suffer like that. But it happens and it will keep happening until we can do something about it."

Delva Jean Souverne knows that many American Catholics may find it difficult to relate to this kind of problem. Virtually every American has sate water to drink and has immediate access to that water from a faucet in their home.

In Haiti, women often walk for hours over rough dirt roads to draw water from a well, crude standpipe or riverbank. Many leave their homes at 4:00 in the morning, walking in the dark in order to save precious daylight hours for other work that needs to be done.

It's common to see as many as 40 or 50 people clustered around a water source with plastic buckets. Water at a well or riverbank is rarely crystal clear or good to the taste, but it's eagerly collected because it is the only option these families have. And when a water supply becomes contaminated, the villagers may not realize it for days--usually, only after children have already died and others are fatally ill.

Children, weak from cramping and dysentery, are a pitiful sight as they hang limply in the arms of their worried mothers. Life in Haiti is already hard. This added attack is often more than a child can take, and many never recover.

"We Americans are so fat" removed from that kind of poverty that we can't fully appreciate the urgency of their problem," admitted Jim Cavnar, president of Cross International Catholic Outreach, a U. …

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