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InteractiveMarch 13, 2024

The Gendered Burden of Water Collection in Sub-Saharan Africa

Fetching water is a demanding task, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is common for people to spend over 30 minutes for a single water fetching trip. This task falls mostly on women and girls, who, in nearly 80% of households lacking direct water access, bear the primary responsibility for water collection.

In some countries in Africa, the percentage of women responsible for water collection drastically exceeds that of men. In some cases this percentage is higher than 80%, highlighting a deeply rooted inequality in the distribution of domestic labor.

The time invested in water collection is considerable, with many indicating durations between 30 minutes to over an hour per trip, as illustrated by the yellow and orange segments in the chart below.

Water collection is a major burden in many countries

Source: UNICEF/WHO report Safely managed drinking water, 2017

These durations include travel to the water source, queuing, filling containers, and the return journey. Although self-reported times may vary in accuracy, they offer a valuable view into the significant time burden that water collection imposes.

These statistics reflect the disproportionate impact on women and indicate the broader implications for public health, economic vitality, and educational opportunities, considering the time and effort diverted from other productive activities.