December 27, 2006

Water Carriers

About 1.1 billion people in the developing world lack access to clean water. A lot of bad things obviously result from this, including dehydration and disease. But Hilzoy points to another, hidden cost: "A United Nations survey carried out in 177 countries has revealed that women spend an estimated 40 billion hours collecting water." In some countries, women spend 15 to 17 hours a week traveling to faraway streams and wells. All that lost time has a massive impact on gender inequality. From the report itself:
It is not uncommon for women to walk more than 10 kilometres during the dry season. Research in eastern Uganda found households spending on average 660 hours a year collecting water. This represents two full months of labour with the attendant opportunity costs for education, income generation and female leisure time," the report, released last week, partly reads.

In India, according to research done by Self Employed Women's Association, it is estimated that reducing time spent on water collection to one hour a day would enable women to earn an additional US$100 a year. "But it was not only the loss of income that was important. Women also emphasized the importance of income generation to their independence."
I don't really have any added commentary, those are just stunning numbers.
-- Brad Plumer 6:17 PM || ||