Is water carriage associated with the water carrier’s health? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence

Jo-Anne Lee Geere, Moa Cortobius, Jonathan Harold Geere, Charlotte Christiane Hammer, Paul R Hunter

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Introduction: The work of carrying water falls mainly on women and children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and rural areas. While concerns have been raised, how water carriage is associated with health of the water carrier is not clear. The aim of this review is to summarise evidence on whether, and how, water carriage is associated with the water carrier’s health.

Methods: A systematic review of literature was conducted, searching Embase; Medline; Web of Science Social Sciences Citation Index; Web of Science Arts and Humanities Citation Index; International Initiative for Impact Evaluation website; WHO Virtual Health Sciences Library and WHO African index medicus, from inception to 8 November 2017.

Results: Forty-two studies were included. Their ability to demonstrate cause and effect relationships was limited by study design and fair or poor methodological quality. Overall, the studies suggest that water carriage is associated with negative aspects of the water carriers’ health. There is moderate quantitative and strong qualitative evidence that water carriage is associated with pain, fatigue, perinatal health problems and violence against vulnerable people, and inconclusive evidence of an association with stress or self-reported mental health and general health status.

Conclusion: In many circumstances, water carriage is a potential barrier to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 target ‘universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all’ and SDG 3 ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. Efforts should focus on providing water on premises, and where this is not possible, providing water close to home and reducing risk of gender-based violence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000764
JournalBMJ Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2018

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