0831 GMT February 21, 2018
According to a new report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 2.1 billion people around the world face that challenge every day. And the task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls, especially in rural areas, theconversation.com.
Water, a human right, is critical for human survival and development. A sufficient supply of biologically and chemically safe water is necessary for drinking and personal hygiene to prevent diarrheal diseases, trachoma, intestinal worm infections, stunted growth among children and numerous other deleterious outcomes from chemical contaminants like arsenic and lead.
Researches have been carried out in India, Bolivia and Kenya on the water and sanitation challenges that women and girls confront and how these experiences influence their lives.
An insufficient supply of safe and accessible water poses extra risks and challenges for women and girls. Without recognizing the uneven burden of water work that women bear, well-intentioned programs to bring water to places in need will continue to fail to meet their goals.
Collecting water takes time. Simply to get water for drinking, bathing, cooking and other household needs, millions of women and girls spend hours every day traveling to water sources, waiting in line and carrying heavy loads — often several times a day.
The new UNICEF/WHO report states that 263 million people worldwide have access to water sources that are considered safe, but need to spend at least 30 minutes walking or queuing to collect their water.
Another 159 million get their water from surface sources that are considered to be the most unsafe, such as rivers, streams and ponds. Water from these sources is even more likely to require over 30 minutes to collect.
In a study of 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF estimated that women there spent 16 million hours collecting water each day.
Women in a recent study in Kenya reported spending an average of 4½ hours fetching water per week, causing 77 percent to worry about their safety while fetching and preventing 24 percent from caring for their children.