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Collecting water is often a colossal waste of time for women and girls – UNICEF

 31 August 2016 – UNICEF said the hours women and girls spend every day collecting water is a colossal waste of their valuable time. As World Water Week is underway in Stockholm and experts gather to try to improve the world’s access to water, the UN children’s agency stressed that the opportunity cost of lack of access to water disproportionately falls on women.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for water and sanitation, Goal 6, calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. The first step is providing everyone with a basic service within a 30-minute round trip, and the long term goal is to ensure everyone has safe water available at home. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, one roundtrip to collect water is still 33 minutes on average in rural areas and 25 minutes in urban areas. And the burden of fetching it falls disproportionately on women and children.


Collection of water can also affect the health of the whole family, and particularly of children. When water is transported and stored, it increases the risk that it is faecally contaminated. This in turn increases the risk of diarrhoeal disease, which is a leading cause of chronic malnutrition or stunting and the 4th cause of death among children under 5 with 300,000 deaths per year due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene or unsafe drinking water.


In Ghana, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for access to improved water supplies was achieved. However, less than 2 in every 5 Ghanaians is drinking safe water, and 1 in every 6 households does not have a basic water supply within a 30-minute round trip. These challenges are likely to contribute to the annual deaths of over 3,600 Ghanaian children each year from diarrhoea and the cholera outbreaks in Ghana that impact on tens of thousands of Ghanaians. Achieving the SDG goal 6 will reduce diarrhoea and cholera impacts, as well as reducing the burden on women and children who are responsible for collecting water in 4 of every 5 households.



UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


For further information, please contact:

E. Offeibea Baddoo, Communications Officer

Mobile: +233244663643,


Innocent Kafembe, Communications Officer

Mobile: +233 0553004217,



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