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Charity Organization in Cameroon Launches Safe Water Projects to Replace Polluted Wells

One of the water fountains created by Global Compassion, a non-profit organization in Cameroon

Clement Awanfe Ngueto, a social activist working to provide safe drinking water in Cameroon has, for years, watched people struggle to access safe drinking water especially in remote villages of the Central African country.

Born and raised in Santchou, a district in Western Cameroon’s Catholic Diocese of Nkongsamba, Clement grew up in a village where families invented ways to clean water from polluted wells for household chores and drinking, a situation he says posed health risks.

“As a child, I had no access to clean water, to drinking water. Only to some polluted wells,” Clement recalls in an interview obtained by EWTN TV and the Catholic News Agency (CNA) Deutsch.

He adds, “We used all kinds of solutions to get the water clean to use for our families. But almost all the deaths and most of the diseases in our community were and are caused by dirty water.”

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The situation, he says, has not improved as only a handful of families can access safe drinking water many years later, dimming the efforts to improve water access owing to what has been referred to as a global water crisis.

In her address on this year’s World Water Day, which was celebrated on March 22, Ambassador Marie Therese Pictet Althann, Order of Malta to the United Nations (UN) Geneva expressed regret that about 97 percent of the world's water is saline and therefore unsuitable for most human uses.

“Humans depend on access to sufficient quantities of freshwater for their survival,” Amb. Althann said, and added that it was important to emphasize the central role that access to water plays as one of the prerequisites for humanitarian action, sustainable development, and peace.

“We believe that water is life and sanitation is dignity,” she further said, and continued, “Without the effective implementation of internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, no meaningful solutions can be found to address this major challenge.”

According to a UN Water Report, people in Africa, a continent with the largest water resources, in particular have life-threatening water challenges.

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Clement believes that goal number six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation with the goal of achieving access to clean water for people around the world by 2030 is “a pipe dream.”

“Unfortunately, governments and other civil society actors around the world have not done enough to achieve it,” he says of the water SDG, and adds, “So I think that achieving, access to water by 2030 is not happening because there is not enough serious effort.”

He says that in Cameroon, for instance, only a handful of villages in a district have access to safe drinking water.

“In the district where my village is located…there are 60 villages. But of the 60 villages, only about four have access to clean water, while the others do not,” he says, and adds, “Our government is not doing enough and we are asking them to invest in clean water.”

This is what pushed Clement to start Global Compassion in Cameroon, a non-governmental organization working to provide safe drinking water in villages in the Central African nation.

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Started in 2013 with the aim of addressing the lack of community development, the organization also facilitates, through a computer lab for children in the village, free access to formal education.

“We also carried out some disaster relief activities. But essentially, we focus on access to clean water, safe drinking water for people who don't have access to it,” the Global Compassion founder and president says.

The Vatican marked World Water Day on March 22 with a call for collaboration between countries to make clean drinking water available in all parts of the world.

“To guarantee fair access to water, it is vitally urgent to act without delay, to end once and for all its waste, commercialization and contamination,” the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, said.

In the message, which was sent to UN organizations on behalf of Pope Francis on March 22, Cardinal Parolin added, “Collaboration between States, the public and private sectors, as well as the multiplication of initiatives by intergovernmental organizations, is more necessary than ever.”

The Global Compassion founder faulted governments and private entities for commercializing water and treating it as a commodity instead of “God's free gift” that he said should be freely available to everyone.

“Unfortunately, water is treated like an expensive commodity. But why? Because there is plenty of water everywhere. We could drill right here where I am now and have water.  We could lay pipes from anywhere to have water,” Clement says in the report shared with ACI Africa Friday, April 2. 

The organization, the founder says, is rooted in Christian teachings.

“As Jesus said, if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  How can we, together with other religious organizations, different faith organizations, give water to the people? Well, not by just being inactive and waiting for water access to fall from the sky. We as human beings have to become active,” the Global Compassion president says.

He adds, in reference to some of the projects undertaken by the organization in various villages in Cameroon, “As a Christian, I am called to save lives by giving our community free access to drinking water.  For example, in 2018 we had successfully completed a water project in Bamia village and are currently completing one in Nganzom village. It is a devastating situation when you look at the statistics. Due to the consumption of unclean water, villagers become victims of bad diseases.”

The organization is also involved in interfaith dialogue bringing together people of various religious beliefs with a call for peaceful co-existence in Cameroon.

“We also work with Catholic organizations to change the hatred of many people into love, to help our people understand that we are all equal and need to work together to find sustainable solutions for our communities,” Clement says, adding that the involvement and influence of religious groups in providing water systems is essential.

“Catholics are doing a lot in other communities and we hope we can work with them for access to clean water in our community as well,” he says.

His major challenge, he recounts, is getting as many people as possible on board to participate in community development projects through funding.

Clement notes that the Cameroonian government, in particular, is not doing enough in the provision of safe drinking water to the population.

“In communities like the one I live in, there is a serious problem of having clean water to drink.  I can only urge our government of Cameroon to invest in access to clean water…throughout the country and specially to involve international organizations to do something serious to achieve this goal,” he says.

The community philanthropist adds, “My organization is doing what it can. However, we have a serious lack of funding to do what needs to be done to give communities access to clean water.”

Clement further says, “We are working with the target population here. We have our office here on the ground and a new project to provide access to clean water in four different villages. But we don't have the funding.”  

Christian Peschken of EWTN Deutschland contributed to the reporting of this story