Monday, October 24, 2011

The health implications of - walking for water

Photo Source
Women and girls in rural areas shoulder the burden of carrying water over long distances in buckets on their heads. When water is plentiful, the women in Guinea Bissau walk 2-3 miles for water TWICE a day. Once there they must wait in line for their turn. During the dry season the walk may be much longer as they search for available water. This is exhausting and uncomfortable, but have you ever thought about the physical damage that is done to women and girls from carrying water and other large items on their heads day in and day out? Well, I have. So I did some research on the subject and want to share it with you.

Study by Environmental Health Journal

Lack of access to safe water remains a significant risk factor for poor health in developing countries. There has been little research into the health effects of frequently carrying containers of water. The aims of this study were to better understand how domestic water carrying is performed, identify potential health risk factors and gain insight into the possible health effects of the task.

Mixed methods of data collection from six were used to explore water carrying performed by people in six rural villages of Limpopo Province, South Africa. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and through observation and measurement.

Water carrying was mainly performed by women or children carrying containers on their head (mean container weight 19.5 kg) over a mean distance of 337 m. The prevalence of spinal (neck or back) pain was 69% and back pain was 38%. Of participants who carried water by head loading, the distance walked by those who reported spinal pain was significantly less than those who did not (173 m 95%CI 2-343; p = 0.048).

Typical water carrying methods impose physical loading with potential to produce musculoskeletal disorders and related disability. This exploratory study is limited by a small sample size and future research should aim to better understand the type and strength of association between water carrying and health, particularly musculoskeletal disorders. However, these preliminary findings suggest that efforts should be directed toward eliminating the need for water carrying, or where it must continue, identifying and reducing risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders and physical injury.

Source: Full study details Environmental Health Journal

I did find a solution that is being used in many parts of South Africa. The only area of West Africa where this product is being used currently is Burkina Faso.

The Hippo Water Roller was invented in South Africa to offer one solution to this problem by providing a simple water-carrying vehicle that rolls easily along the ground with a full load of water and does not need to be carried.

Of course nothing takes the place of a centrally located well with CLEAN water.
~~~~~Update from Maritza re Djati and the proposed well site:~~~~~~
"The new well will be in the middle of the village, exactly where we have our classroom, this will make things easier for the villagers and also for our students to have a fresh supply of water."


Toni said...

We will get a well built -- this will happen! I know it. I will get busy making more butterflies!!

Unknown said...

If anyone is interested in more information on the health implications of carrying water on your head, I covered the topic in my blog

devon said...

Thank you for your comment Bryan. I am always interested in learning more on the subject.