On Women and Water

Rosa Martinez

Water truck. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Do you know, dear readers, what the main causes of death for women are worldwide? In ascending order, they are: heart conditions, strokes, respiratory infections, chronic pulmonary obstructions and, last but not least, the subject of this post: nothing other than dirty water.

Yes, surprising as it may be, more women die as a result of diseases that spread through dirty water and poor sanitary facilities than because of AIDS, diabetes or cancer.

According to WaterAid, some 800,000 women die each year for lack of access to safe toilet facilities, a situation affecting not only women and children, but also their education.

Dirty water and poor sanitary facilities are at the root of many problems, such as maternal and infant mortality and even gender violence.

Many women in developing countries give birth in their own homes without access to clean water, exposing themselves and their babies to infections.

Without proper bathroom facilities, women and little girls are forced to go into the open, often during the night, putting them at risk of suffering all sorts of sexual harassment or assault.

In addition, women are responsible for transporting water in many poor countries, where they spend hours going to and returning from wells, a task that prevents them from going to school or taking care of their families.

Though our country faces water shortages, primarily because of the poor condition of pipes and extreme draughts, 8.4 million Cubans (out of a total 11.2 million) are serviced by aqueducts and the rest by other public services that are freely accessible, such as pipe-trucks or local wells.

It is true that we have lost sleep countless times in order to rise up early and fill up our tanks at home, or walked several meters carrying a full bucket of water, or stood in line to get water from a truck, but the reality I described at the beginning of this post is simply not ours.