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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

GW Study Finds Nearly 17 Million Women and Children’s Health Harmed by Daily Water Collection in Sub-Saharan Africa

A recent study led by Dr. Jay Graham, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (Milken Institute SPH), found that nearly 17 million women and children (mostly girls) in 24 sub-Saharan African countries are responsible for hailing water long distances to their homes, which takes more than 30 minutes per trip and can lead to serious health issues.

Graham, Jay - serious1
[Photo: Dr. Jay Graham]

The study, published in PLOS ONE, is one of the first to look at the absolute number of people affected in the 24 sub-Saharan African countries and the gender imbalance in water collection labor. Adult women were the primary collectors of water across all 24 countries studied, and when the task fell to children 62 percent of girls took on the responsibility.

In addition to skeletal system issues like arthritis from carrying the 40 or more pound jugs of water, women and girls are put at risk of fatigue, illness, diseases from exposure to unclean water and even sexual violence on trips to collect water. For children, this chore also means missing time in school.

Mtito Andei, Kenya, July 13, 2009: A woman carries on her back a can of water. In the area of Mtito Andei. In many parts of Kenya the problem of drought has spread across much

Mtito Andei, Kenya, July 13, 2009: A woman carries on her back a can of water. In the area of Mtito Andei. In many parts of Kenya the problem of drought has spread across much

Dr. Graham hopes the study’s findings will allow public health leaders in Sub-Saharan African countries to take a hard look at the gender imbalance and take steps to fix it.

Read more about the study, “An Analysis of Water Collection Labor Among Women and Children in 24 Sub-Saharan African Countries.”