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This article is one component of the cover package on "Songs of Justice, Missions of Mercy."

The Chalbi Desert of northern Kenya is so desolate, locals call it "the edge of the world." It's sparsely populated by the Turkana, tribal herders who maintain a traditional way of life. Drought is common.

A dot along the unforgiving landscape is Torbi, a village so small it does not appear on most maps. But a Christian rock group from America partnered with an international agency to provide funds to bring life-giving water to Torbi's inhabitants.

Torbi's rainwater catchment system—a means of collecting fresh water in the desert—is just one of over 600 water-providing projects that the Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay has brought to African communities through Blood: Water Mission, the charitable organization it founded in 2003. The band is almost two-thirds of the way toward its goal of bringing clean water to 1,000 communities.

During a 2001 visit to Malawi, lead vocalist Dan Haseltine saw villagers drinking dirty water from mud pools, and met many more suffering with HIV/AIDS. When he returned to the U.S., the idea for Blood: Water was born. Its name derives from what Haseltine said are Africa's two greatest needs: clean blood and clean water. Waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery take tens of thousands of African lives each year and kill more people worldwide than anything else, including HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS are particularly vulnerable to such diseases.

Haseltine has traveled to Africa five times since, including a recent trip with the band to visit some of the group's projects in Kenya. Just before the band embarked on the grueling ...

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Clean Water, Clean Blood
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November 2009

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