WASHINGTON — World Vision, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services are among several faith-based groups supporting the new U.S. WASH-in-Schools Initiative, which aims to bring clean water to Third World schools.

About 1 billion people living in underdeveloped countries are dying from preventable illnesses related to poor water quality, humanitarian groups said.

Advocates chose water for schools as the best way to approach a crisis that affects entire communities. The goal of the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program is to provide fresh water to schools so children spend their day in a classroom learning rather than hauling water.

American schools are getting involved through H2O for Life, a program that pairs a school in the United States with one in the developing world. Public schools, however, cannot support an overseas religious school under the program.

“We have to be cautious of that just because of the church and state separation,” said Patti Hall, president of H2O for Life.

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