Water Crisis A Risk for Women and Girls in Africa
Only 61 percent have access to safe water in sub-Saharan Africa and large disparities exist that hide the severity of the problem for some communities. Climate change is causing water scarcity and drought, leading to projected water scarcity for close to 230 million Africans.
This also impacts food and energy security as Africa’s population continues to grow. Dr Majid Rafizadeh, a political scientists and human rights defender, highlighted that more than half of the people of Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Chad lack access to basic water services. This also includes 48 percent in Eritrea, 44 percent in Somalia and Uganda, as well as 43 percent in Angola and 37 percent in Mozambique.
But water crisis cannot be entirely pushed onto climate change. Its attributed to poor infrastructure and governance, lack of investment and financing to set up and maintain reliable and basic water services.
Water and Gender Are Interconnected
Eisa Gouredou, a regional consultant for the World Bank, said rural areas are disproportionately impacted, and are very much noticeable. “180,000 children under the age of five die every year in sub-Saharan Africa from diarrheal diseases caused by lack of water, sanitation and hygiene services – 85 percent of those without water and 70 percent without sanitation live in rural areas.”
Rafizadeh believes water and gender are interconnected in such situations with women and girls disproportionately affected. “It is women and girls who bear the burden when there is no access to clean water services, since they are often the ones who have to spend many hours each day fetching water and carrying heavy cans of unclean water in order to provide for their families.”
He said lack of access to clean water services leads to greater gender inequality. It is also adding extra risks to women and girls when it comes to being subjected to sexual abuse, contracting diseases and dropping out of school. “When they are trying to access clean water, they are often alone and are more vulnerable to gender-based violence.”
Clean Water Gives Hope
Julia Anderson, of Charity Water, said clean water gives women hope, health and opportunity. Women can start businesses, invest in their families and take charge of their own futures. “It means girls are able to spend more time in school to further their education and aspirations. Clean water gives women a chance to make their dreams a reality.”
Rafizadeh added that governments around the world can work together to provide universal access to safety managed water services. He said it includes initiatives such as carrying out water sector reforms, attracting more investments and financing, enhancing the management of water resources and service delivery, and improving governance in sub-Saharan African nations.