WaterAid invites churches to help change lives for good in climate-vulnerable communities this Christmas

21 November 2023
Women walking home after collecting clean water from a pump 4-5 kilometres from home.
Image: WaterAid/ Fabeha Monir

Download photosChurch congregations and faith groups across the UK are being invited to support WaterAid’s Water Means Life appeal to help communities around the world get lasting access to clean water and decent toilets so they can build a better future in the face of climate change.  

The climate crisis is a water crisis and having a devastating impact on people’s access to water, with more extreme floods polluting fragile water sources and longer droughts drying up springs and wells.  

This winter, as leaders come together at COP28, church congregations and faith groups can raise money for WaterAid’s Water Means Life appeal by using the charity’s festive fundraising resources – from making wreaths and Christmas decorations, to singing for water and hosting a Christmas feast. Together, they can help provide weather-proof taps and toilets to people affected by extreme weather.  

Bangladesh is the seventh most climate change-affected country in the world. In the south, floods have been bringing salt water inland for years, tainting fresh water and damaging crops.  

For the Munda people – an ethnic minority community in Bhetkhali – the quest for water overshadows everything. Since the regular water holes dried up, the community has to clean and cook with water from contaminated ponds, causing many to suffer from skin conditions and even hair loss.  

Women walk up to four hours a day to get drinking water from other villages. It’s exhausting and takes them away from their children and earning a living. Children regularly miss school because they are sick with waterborne illnesses like diarrhoea or typhoid. 

Debendranath Munda, a village elder and farmer in his 70s, has seen his water sources dry up and everything he owns destroyed by cyclones, twice.  

Debendranath Munda, Bhetkhali, Bangladesh
Image: WaterAid/ Fabeha Monir

Debendranath Munda said:  

“The water situation in my community has worsened over the years. We cannot source the water directly from the pond because of the hot weather, which has dried them up.” 

What the Munda people do have a lot of is rain. Rainwater can be some of the cleanest and naturally found water anywhere and collecting it requires low maintenance and easy installment. With fundraising from churches and faith groups this Christmas, WaterAid can work with communities like Bhetkhali to help establish rainwater harvesting systems, changing lives for good. 

In Kolbari, WaterAid worked with the community to install a rainwater harvesting system where respected community member Komola was elected to take care it. Before, she had no choice but to make long journeys to a pond to collect dirty water and often suffered from diarrhoea. The rainwater harvesting system has empowered Komola in more ways than one. She now has better health and with her extra time, she can do more work as a tailor and attend training sessions on women’s rights.   


Komola Munda, Rainwater Plant Caretaker, said: 

“I want to teach my community that boys and girls are equal, they have equal rights, and that there should be no discrimination.” 

Emily McGuinness, Senior Community Marketing Officer at WaterAid, said: 

“Clean water means life. By using our fundraising pack this Christmas, churches and faith groups can help us transform lives of people in communities affected most by the climate crisis. 

“Almost one in ten people around the world don’t have clean water close to home, but vital fundraising for our Water Means Life appeal means people like Debendranath can have clean water, building resilience to the effects of climate change so they have the freedom to learn, earn and thrive.” 

WaterAid’s Christmas fundraising pack comes with a range of resources for churches and faith groups to use, including the stories of Debendranath and Komola, festive activity suggestions, Christmas decoration templates and fundraising posters. 

Find out more and download the free resource pack   ENDS  

Download photos  Find out more and download the fundraising pack at wateraid.org/uk/christmas 

For more information, please contact: 

Hana Bel Haj, Media Team Assistant [email protected] or Laura Crowley, PR Manager [email protected]   

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552, or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors: 

WaterAid is an international not-for-profit determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. We work alongside communities in 22 countries to secure these three essentials that transform people’s lives. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 28 million people with clean water and nearly 29 million people with decent toilets. 

For more information, visit our website wateraid.org/uk, follow us on Twitter @WaterAidUK, @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress, or find us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram

  • 2.2 billion people in the world – more than one in four – don’t have safe water.
  • 703 million people in the world – almost one in ten – don’t have clean water close to home. 
  • Almost 2 billion people in the world – one in four – lack soap and/or water to wash their hands at home, if they have a place at all.   
  • 1.5 billion people in the world – almost one in five – don’t have a decent toilet of their own.
  • 570 million people in the world – 1 in 14 – have a decent toilet but have to share it with people outside their family. This compromises the privacy, dignity and safety of women and girls.
  • Almost 400,000 children under five die every year due to diseases caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. That's more than 1000 children a day, or almost one child every one and a half minutes.
  • Investing in safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services provides up to 21 times more value than it costs.

[1] WHO/UNICEF (2023). Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2022: special focus on gender. Available at: washdata.org/reports/jmp-2023-wash-households-launch (accessed 11 Jul 2023).   

[2] WHO (2023). Burden of disease attributable to unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene: 2019 update. Available at: who.int/publications/i/item/9789240075610 (accessed 24 Jul 2023). 

[3] WaterAid (2021). Mission-critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery. Available at: washmatters.wateraid.org/publications/mission-critical-invest-water-sanitation-hygiene-healthy-green-recovery (accessed 1 Nov 2023).