A  girl going to fetch  water
A girl going to fetch water

Diseases linked to dirty water and lack of safe toilets are the fifth biggest global killers of women, according to new analysis released today by WaterAid.

These diseases cause more deaths amongst women than diabetes, HIV/AIDS or breast cancer, taking a woman’s life every 40 seconds.

A WaterAid analysis of Institute of Health Metrics figures, released just ahead of International Women’s Day, identified the Top 10 deadliest diseases for women across the globe.

Illnesses related to a lack of water, basic sanitation and hygiene were responsible for the deaths of almost 800,000 women around the world in a single year – making it the fifth biggest killer of women behind heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some 88 per cent of all diarrheal and half of all nutritional deficiencies are related to the lack of these basic services.

In a statement released in Lusaka today by WaterAid Zambia Advocacy and Policy Manager Priyanka Patel more than 370 million women around the globe still live without access to clean drinking water, whilst 1.25 billion live without access to a safe, private toilet.

The vast majority of deaths related to the lack of safe water and basic sanitation, almost four out of five, occur in the developing world.

Barbara Frost, Chief Executive Officer at WaterAid said: “These figures highlight the plight of the one in ten women and girls around the globe still living without access to clean drinking water and the one in three still living without access to decent toilets. This completely unacceptable situation affects women and girls’ education, their health, their dignity and ultimately, in too many cases, results in an early and needless death.

“On this day when we celebrate the achievements of women, it really is a disgrace that so many women and girls are denied their basic human rights to access to water and sanitation.”

Women and girls bear a disproportionate amount of the burden created when there is no clean water, safe private toilets or way to keep themselves and their surroundings clean.

Finding water is often considered ‘women’s work’ and in many of the world’s poorest countries, women spend hours every day trekking for water – time which could otherwise be spent getting an education, caring for their families or on income-generating work, helping lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Women and girls who have no safe, private place to relieve themselves are also at increased risk of harassment or assault. Women and girls without toilets spend an estimated 97 billion dollars each year trying to find a safe place to go.

WaterAid is advocating for water and sanitation to remain a dedicated goal in the Sustainable Development Goals, which are currently under negotiation at the UN, as well as inclusion in goals on health, education and gender rights.

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  1. the problem is that we think when we construct hospitals and clinics we are improving health. we need to attend to health not in a biomedical mode but health is a social/economic/environment interplay. we should stop going so much curative but invest in preventive measures such as hygiene promotion, safe water and sanitation. if this is done more than 80% of all diseases currently being attended to wont be there.


  2. Isn’t clean water and sanitation the main issue ECL failed to address in Chawama? If it was not a priority during his tenure as MP I fear for the country!


  3. Actually it’s just the way we think as Zambians, the moment you say health, the first thing that comes to mind is hospital or clinic forgetting the litter we throw around, the hand washing with Soap or ash we don’t do after the toilet, the way we don’t boil our water or chlorinate it, the way we eat fatty foods and call it kudyela, the way we don’t exercise and sit behind a TV watching telemundo and they way we stress our skins by rubbing Congolese skin lightening creams, etc



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