On Tuesday, a delegation of CAFOD supporters delivered over 60,000 Thirst for change actions to No 10 Downing Street, calling on David Cameron to turn the tide on water poverty. The Prime Minister has a crucial opportunity at the G8 summit, which begins on 18 May, to urge other world leaders to raise their ambition and make clean water and safe sanitation a top priority. Your actions give David Cameron a clear mandate to push for concrete commitments from the G8 leaders to end water poverty once and for all.Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell praised the Thirst for Change campaign and greeted CAFOD campaigners as they handed over action cards at No 10. Speaking to supporters and campaigners outside Downing Street Andrew Mitchell said: “We love CAFOD. You are brilliant. Thank you very much for what you are doing: it’s really, really good.”
At sunrise, before delivering in the campaign actions, Thirst for change campaigners from across England and Wales joined a powerful walk of solidarity along the River Thames to Westminster. As they walked, they remembered the millions of women and girls who rise early and spend hours every day walking to fetch water.
The group of walkers carried buckets of water and pictures of Esther, a Zambian woman who has to get up at night and queue for hours to get water for her family. The walk finished at Westminster Cathedral where we displayed thousands of messages from people all over the UK, written on paper water droplets. Blue ribbons held by supporters created symbolic ‘rivers of change’.
Rose Kryz, a campaigner from Hallam diocese, said: “We’re here to walk in solidarity with women who wake at the crack of dawn to fetch water. We are here walking for those for whom water is a luxury. If we solve the problem of water poverty, then we are a long way towards solving the problem of poverty. My message to David Cameron is: Please, please use the G8 to get something concrete done on water poverty.”
“I’m really exhilarated by being here,” said Mike Willcox, a campaigner from Portsmouth diocese. “Being out in the streets getting the campaign noticed with people hooting their horns in support as we walk by. In my diocese, people really relate to the problem of lack of water. Drought in the UK has focused people’s minds, and encouraged us in some small way to stand in solidarity with those who don’t have access to water. Everyone in the world deserves access to safe water; water is fundamental for life. If we can fix the problem of water poverty, then we can make a huge difference to billions of people around the world.”
Head of campaigns Clare Lyons thanked everyone who has taken part in the Thirst for change campaign “The support for Thirst for Change has been incredible,” she said. “We’ve been inspired by each and every person, school, youth group and parish who has shown our Prime Minister how strongly they feel about ending water poverty at the G8 summit this week.
“It’s shocking that millions of people go without clean water and access to sanitation every day. The Catholic community have taken this vitally important and fundamental issue to their hearts, and have acted to ensure that people in the poorest countries can live their lives well and have the opportunity to flourish.”
CAFOD director Chris Bain said, “Access to clean water is one of the most fundamental human needs, and it should be one of the most automatic human rights. Yet every day hundreds of millions of people are still going without clean water and sanitation; and for millions more, every day is consumed by walking and queuing for hours to carry water home.
“It doesn’t have to be this way: what we lack is simply the political will and the financial commitment from the world’s most powerful countries to get clean water and safe sanitation to the people who need them. That’s why we’ve called on David Cameron to take the G8 from words to action on water poverty – and along with the millions who thirst for change we’ll be watching and waiting to see the result.”