Water quality, WASH, and gender: differential impacts on health and well-being in Abeokuta City, Nigeria
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It is often assumed that humans experience the effect of poor water quality like multiple health and socioeconomic impacts in the same way. But these impacts are not gender neutral due to inequalities caused by physiological composition, age marginalization, and socioeconomic conditions, among others. A mixed method, comprising water quality assessment, a survey of 456 individuals, and medical record collection, was applied to examine the differential impacts of water quality and WASH practices in Abeokuta City, Nigeria. The assessment shows that without point-of-use water treatment, the water sources in the area are not safe for potable purposes, as the waters are hard in the sequence of borehole > surface water > hand-dug well > sachet water, with elevated levels of calcium (> 75 mg/L) and not free from microbial contamination. Among the area population segments, men and boys (relative to women and girls) may be more susceptible (55%) to the compounding health effects associated with the hardness and high calcium concentration in water. Girls are the most affected by the associated impacts of water collection. Men and boys are more vulnerable to the consequences of poor hygiene, while women are more susceptible to the health effects of toilet cleaning and the sharing of sanitation facilities, among others. We conclude that there are differential impacts of unsafe water, WASH services, and practices on human health. Gendered statistics through sex-disaggregated data is crucial to unmasking the differential impacts, which are neither gender neutral nor evenly distributed between women and men, and boys and girls.
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