Having to fetch water from a distance has negative outcomes for health

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Published: September 23, 2019 3:44:04 AM

The exhaustion from fetching water was also found to affect breast-feeding behaviour, impeding postnatal care and infant nutrition.

It notes that women and children from low-income countries are most affected by the lack of access to water. (Representational image)It notes that women and children from low-income countries are most affected by the lack of access to water. (Representational image)

A recent study by two UK scholars notes that fetching water from distant places can result in adverse health outcomes. It claims that the ideal time for fetching water should not be beyond 30 minutes. The research, due to be published in the upcoming issue of International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, surveyed 2.7 million people across 41 countries to find that in 2017, 206 million spent more than this ideal time to fetch water, and 435 million relied on unimproved water sources. It notes that women and children from low-income countries are most affected by the lack of access to water.

Off-plot water access results in multiple trips, leading to extreme exhaustion, and consumption of unsafe water. Further, children left at home when adults go to fetch water are at a greater health and safety risk than those under adult supervision; in areas where children go to fetch water, the likelihood of diarrhoea in the under-five age group is 10-15% higher than normal. The exhaustion from fetching water was also found to affect breast-feeding behaviour, impeding postnatal care and infant nutrition. Pre-existing research has found that reduction in hours spent on fetching water due to access to taps halves risk of child death per month. The formation of the ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry, and, with proper implementation, the ‘Nal se Jal’ scheme might help tackle the problem of water access that grips urban and rural Indian households, and one may see better health outcomes. However, with the growing water crisis across the world, concrete conservation steps must accompany measures geared at easing of access.

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