Dr Agnes Abuom. © Peter Kenny/WCC

Dr Agnes Abuom. © Peter Kenny/WCC

Water is often presented as life. But it is also a gift and a right which must be available to all, says Dr Agnes Abuom.

Africa is one of the biggest continents in the world, and also has wide disparities between the poor and rich in access to water, according to reports from the United Nations and other independent groups.

“If you look at Africa today – north, south, east and west – water has become a gift and right,” says Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, speaking in Beit Jala, Palestine.

“In Africa, in some places, we have children who have not seen water for a whole year.”

More than one-fourth of the population in Africa — particularly sub-Saharan Africa — spends more than half an hour for each round trip to collect water.

That is because about 66 percent of Africa is arid or semi-arid, according to the UN.

And where there is water in Africa, up to 60 percent of the continent’s resources are currently failing, say some NGOs.

Abuom says this is, “partly due to desertification, also from water grabs and misuse of water by some companies and the rich.

“In particular if you take pastoralists, water is a daily struggle. Men, women and children often move hundreds of kilometres in search of this gift in parts of Africa.”

That makes it not just life, but a human rights question and a gift we all have to share, says Abuom, a Kenyan Anglican.

It is, however, not only in vast dry tracts of Africa where people, especially the poorer and more vulnerable, struggle to get enough water for daily use.

That is why water justice is a key continental issue, as well as in Palestine, Abuom said referring to the WCC’s Lenten campaign on water.

“Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent on the planet and the demand for water and sanitation is outstripping supply in cities,” says Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat.

“Here again there is a huge disparity between the poor in informal settlements and the rich, which we should work to pare down,” says Abuom.

WCC campaign Seven Weeks for Water:

WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace: