September 26, 2013

Karen Schneider rsm, M.D speaks at the launch Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA)

On Wednesday, September 25th Karen Schneider rsm, M.D. spoke on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy International Association at the launch of the UNICEF Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) in New York.

GIWA is an exciting new project that will, for the first time, see the world’s many faiths collaborate on water and sanitation issues. Comprising a network of religious leaders and faith-based organisations, GIWA will operate in a decentralized and non-hierarchical manner as an action-oriented civil society, united by a common concern: to advance the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation, and create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. 

The issue of water and sanitation is of particular concern to Sr Karen, who is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University with more than twenty years experience in pediatric emergency medicine. In 2007 Sr Karen developed the Mercy Medical Mission project, where,four times per year, she accompanies a team of paediatric medical residents, volunteer nurses and one nonclinical volunteer assistant from Johns Hopkins to developing countries.

In these countries Sr Karen is repeatedly confronted by water and sanitation-related illnesses, seeing first-hand the devastation that a lack of proper water and sanitation services inflicts. These experiences have underscored for her the importance of water for life - life of all peoples now, for future generations, and for the planet itself.

During her presentation Sr Karen highlighted how religious communities can affect real change in the areas in which they serve. She shared the view that the commodification of water represents a clear and present danger to the right to water for all. Sr Karen also expressed the opinion of the Sisters of Mercy that the prevailing model of extractive development poses major threats to the source, quality and quantity of water, and that the short-sighted and heedless granting of oil, gas and mining permits results in a cumulative and irreversible impact on the sustainability of water and sanitation for future generations and for the sustainability of our planet.

In her concluding remarks Sr Karen made several appeals including calling for universal access to water and sanitation; the protection of source water; and a total moratorium on oil, gas and mining activities that threaten water quality, water source and the sustainability of water.

The launch, which was co-sponsored by USAID, sent a strong message on the crucial role of the GIWA in accelerating the achievement of the water and sanitation MDGs. Furthermore, it demonstrated the strength of the alliance of religious organisations involved in the development of water and sanitation goals, as well as introducing a long-term partnership between GIWA and UNICEF.

The launch was moderated by Alfred Ironside, Director of Communications, Ford Foundation. Other speakers included UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake and GIWA co-founders Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp (Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values President & Founder) and Swami Chidanand Saraswati (President & Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram)

Find out more about GIWA

Messages to: Áine O’Connor MGA Coordinator at the UN


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