Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Women and Water: Collecting water causes serious injuries says study

By Esther Nakkazi

Collecting water can cause serious injuries like falls, traffic accidents, animal attacks, and fights, which can result in broken bones, spinal injuries, lacerations, and other physical injuries, particularly for women living in low and middle-income countries according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The research titled ‘In pursuit of ‘safe’ water: The burden of personal injury from water fetching in 21 low-income and middle-income countries’ published in the journal BMJ Global Health also says women are also most likely to sustain such injuries – highlighting the social and gender inequities of a hidden global health challenge. 

“Millions of people don’t have the luxury of clean drinking water at their home, and they face many dangers before the water even touches their lips. We wanted to better understand the true burden of water insecurity," says Dr Jo-Anne Geere, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences.

Dr. Geere says most of the global research on water has largely focused on scarcity and health issues related to what is in the water, but the burden and risks of how water is retrieved and carried has been overlooked until now.

The new study was led by Northwestern University in the US, in collaboration with UEA, the University of Miami, and the Household Water Insecurity Experiences Research Coordination Network (HWISE RCN).
The research team used a large global dataset to understand what factors might predict water-fetching injuries. The work draws on a survey of 6,291 randomly selected households across 24 sites in 21 low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

They found that 13 per cent of the respondents reported some sort of injury while collecting water, and that women were twice as likely to be hurt as men.

 “Thirteen percent is a big number, but it is probably an underestimate. It’s highly likely that more people would have reported injuries if the survey had more detailed questions," says Dr. Sera Young, from Northwestern University.

“This reinforces how the burden of water scarcity disproportionately falls on women, on rural populations, and on those who do not have water sources close to home. It highlights the importance of safe interventions that prioritise personal physical safety alongside traditional global indicators of water, sanitation, and hygiene,” says Prof Paul Hunter, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

The researchers say that keeping track of such safety measures — in addition to the usual measures of water quality and access — could help better assess progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6.1, which sets out “to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” by 2030.

“It seems likely that water-fetching can contribute considerably to the global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) burden, but it usually goes unmeasured because we typically think about access and water quality. It is, therefore, a greatly underappreciated, nearly invisible public health challenge," Dr. Vidya Venkataramanan, also from Northwestern University.

“It’s really important that data on water-fetching injuries are systematically collected so that we can know the true burden of water insecurity. Currently, all of the broken bones, spinal injuries, lacerations, and other physical injuries are not accounted for in calculations about the burden of water insecurity.”



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