13.5 Vulnerability due to lack of satisfactory water provision
As you know, the poor are among those most directly affected by unsafe water. They are not only less likely to have access to safe water and sanitation, but they are also less likely to have the financial and human resources to manage the impact of this deficiency. The majority of those who have no access to improved sources of drinking water are the rural poor. This lack of access is reflected in the day-to-day investment of time to collect water which means that women, in particular, do not have time for productive activity, for household tasks, for childcare or for education.
As well as the dangers arising from using water from unprotected sources, women’s health may also be affected by the heavy burden of carrying water because carrying heavy loads may cause spinal injuries. Furthermore, women who collect water may be physically attacked while performing this task. Women also suffer from the lack of appropriate sanitation facilities. When there is little privacy or security for them, women and girls have to go into an inappropriate location where they may risk being attacked. Water facilities and services must be culturally appropriate and sensitive to gender, and privacy requirements.
Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to the lack of safe water provision. Lack of accessible safe water increases their vulnerability to diseases. Their immune systems are not fully developed and may not be able to respond to a water-related infection. They also have less body mass than adults, which means that a waterborne chemical may be dangerous for a child at a concentration that is relatively harmless for an adult. Children often share with women the responsibility for fetching water. This means they may miss school and it can affect their health and put them, especially girls, at risk of harassment. Other groups who may be more vulnerable to a lack of safe water include people who are ill or debilitated in some way because their immune system may already be weakened. The elderly may also be at greater risk.