We all know the injunction at the beginning of the Passover Seder, inviting the hungry to join the feast. This year, at my table, we are adding "all who are thirsty, come and drink" to the invitation. That is because Passover falls just after World Water Day on March 22, a day devoted to raising awareness and support for clean water where it is desperately needed around the globe.
Nearly 800 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. Waterborne illnesses are the second-leading cause of preventable childhood deaths in the world. Globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhea; 90 percent of these deaths are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.
If 90 school buses filled with kindergartners crashed every day, the world would take notice. But this is precisely what happens every day because of dirty water, and poor sanitation and hygiene.
More young kids die from these causes than from measles, malaria, and AIDS combined, yet water and sanitation issues receive far less of our attention.
The recent food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, the conflict in Syria, and the disasters in the Philippines and Haiti have all been accompanied by acute water crises. These emergencies, in addition to the chronic lack of clean water in countries across the developing world, have taken a lethal toll on children.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF responds to the world water crisis with an annual campaign in March known as the UNICEF Tap Project. Its goal is to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to children around the world. This year, the campaign is turning the world's largest social network--Facebook--into a water network to help save lives. Visit the UNICEFTapProject.org to learn more.
So, on Passover Seder, as we celebrate freedom from oppression, let's also make it about freedom from thirst. As we open the door for Elijah, let's open the taps of clean water to children around the world.