For women and girls across the globe, access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is essential for their reproductive and sexual health, and intrinsic to the fight for gender equality. When girls cannot manage their menstrual health, their ability to complete education as well as navigating other aspects of life is compromised.
As of 2015, only 71% of the world population were not connected to a safe water supply. According to another survey conducted in 61 different countries, girls and women are responsible for fetching water in 80% of the households. These households lack an in-house source of safe water.
In the same year, 2.3 billion individuals across the globe lacked access to basic hygiene and sanitation services. Most of these people live in rural settings. 38% of medical facilities in middle and low-income states lack access to standard clean water, hygiene, and sanitation. These conditions have serious ramifications on women’s health during and after childbirth.
The Impact of Lack of Safe Water on Women & Girls
Lack of access to safe water will have a huge impact on girls’ and women’s health, inclusive of their reproductive health, contributing to maternal morbidity and mortality. In places where there lacks access to clean drinking water, women and girls are faced with the burden of having to fetch the water for themselves, which contributes to further consequences of their safety and health.
When all factors are considered, it is conclusive that girls and women are more likely to be exposed to unsafe drinking water. Lack of proper wastewater management and inadequate sanitation. Sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without addressing the issue of access to safe water.
Clean Water & Maternal Health
When expectant women consume contaminated water, it could end up affecting the development of the fetus, resulting in serious health complications among children. Unhealthy maternal practices either before, during, or after pregnancy will have the same impact.
Women with purified water sources and solutions at home, like those offered by Big Berkey Water Filters, are more likely to deliver healthy babies compared to women with no access to safe water. As you expect your baby, you should practice proper hygiene routines at home, such as hand washing.
Lack of safe water during labor might result in sepsis or infections, which in turn cause high maternal mortality rates. Improper infection prevention and hygiene practices might also affect neonatal health.
There are numerous social, structural, and environmental barriers resulting in ineffective water, hygiene, and sanitation practices. This is particularly dangerous to expectant women because it is likely to cause adverse birth complications, impacting the health of the newborn.
The Impact of Water on Girls’ and Women’s Health and Wellbeing
When girls and women cannot access safe water, they are forced to walk long distances to fetch some for themselves and their families. The physical burden of ferrying water over long distances increases their health risk, such as stress, musculoskeletal problems, and uterine prolapse.
Other women and girls experience violence and harassment while traveling from the source of the water to their homes. Without access to safe hygiene and sanitation facilities at home, women and girls are exposed to illnesses and harassment as they access public facilities.
The burden goes beyond the problems they face as women and girls because they are more likely to be caregivers when other family members fall ill from water-borne diseases. This shows that the ramifications of poor access to water and sanitation are primarily borne by women and girls.
Impact on Menstrual Health & Education
Inadequate hygiene and sanitation facilities within schools can lead to high school absenteeism and dropout rates as young girls get frustrated with their inability to manage their menstrual health.
Access to safe water and sanitation, on the other hand, will result in high enrollment rates and lower absenteeism rates among young girls. Additional sources of clean, safe water and adequate sanitation are some of the factors that incentivize parents to send their kids to school.
This, in turn, lowers the burden of water fetching. When girls can have access to clean and safer water at home and school, they will feel more comfortable, and their confidence and productivity will increase.
Availability of menstrual health resources at schools will help remove education barriers, especially among girls living in poverty. To help teenagers better understand the physical changes that free from the social myths about menstruation, the topic should be taught as part of sex education. This will help reduce stigmatization.
Nichelle Lucero is a lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her ideas and personal experiences related to through her writing. She currently writes for her personal blog – Lifewithkrich.com. Her favorite pastime is working out and reading books together with her cats, Chloe and Milo.