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In a Letter to Pope Francis, FAO Chief Stresses How Access to Water is Critical to Fight Hunger and Poverty

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ROME, Italy, April 2, 2019/ — Writing to Pope Francis, FAO's Director-General has pointed to the need to safeguard the world's water resources so that they can benefit every person in every country. 

"Access to clean water and sanitation is essential for life, and it is the basis for maintaining a healthy life and helping millions of people out of poverty and hunger," Graziano da Silva wrote in a letter to the pontiff on 1 April. 

The FAO Director-General thanked Francis for his 22 March 2019 message of support to an event organized by the Rome-based UN agency on World Water Day. He noted that the pontiff's words "always inspire and strengthen us in the struggle for a more just and more supportive world; where equality and social justice become ecumenical values." 

According to the United Nations World Water Development Report some 4 billion people, almost two thirds of the world's population, suffer from severe water scarcity for at least one month a year. 

As such, "we have a long way to go to convert access to water into an effective human right," Graziano da Silva wrote.  He cited Francis 2015 encyclical Laudato s í, which "teaches us the importance of a balance between human beings and nature to guarantee a sustainable future for our planet." 

The FAO Director-General underscored the hardships suffered by many people, especially women and children, who in water-scarce regions, must walk for hours in order to fill containers with water which is essential for drinking and cooking as well as for personal hygiene. "It is essential to guarantee adequate access to water for these vulnerable people. We cannot prevent a drought from happening, but we can prevent a drought from resulting in a famine and a socio-economic upheaval," he wrote. 

The Brazilian experience and FAO's "1-million cisterns" project in the Sahel 

In the letter, Graziano da Silva described an initiative in Brazil where many poor family farmers in dry regions have benefited from the construction of cisterns in their homes to store rainwater. Based on the Brazilian experience, FAO and partners are implementing a project to build 1 million cisterns in the Africa's Sahel region. 

"It is essential to educate new generations on the use and care of water," the FAO Director-General stressed, noting how many people can contribute to this through simple actions, such as not wasting food and buying food produced in a sustainable manner. 

Graziano da Silva concluded by reiterating FAO's commitment to continue cooperating with Pope Francis and the Holy See on all the issues related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially the fight against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and forced migration, and for the promotion of peace. 

Later this week the FAO Director-General will participate in the Land and Water Days event in Cairo, which will review progress made in addressing water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region.

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