Monday, 21 March 2011

How would you choose to use your time - walking for water or planning your wedding?

On the eve of World Water Day and the main events for The World Walks for Water, WaterAid has revealed 10 startling comparisons between the time the UK population spends on everyday activities such as watching football, planning a wedding, and surfing social networking sites, and the time people in the world’s poorest countries spend fetching water.

Across Africa, the average amount of time spent fetching water is three hours a day.

The responsibility of collecting water usually falls on the shoulders of women and children, preventing them from going to school, earning a living or just having fun. In fact, a total of 40 billion working hours are lost every year to water collection. Too often, the water is dirty, resulting in diseases such as diarrhoea or cholera.

“Lack of water and sanitation traps people in a vicious circle of disease, lost opportunities, poverty and indignity,” said Girish Menon, Director for International Programmes at WaterAid.

“That’s why WaterAid and other members of End Water Poverty will hold walking events across the globe on World Water Day to raise awareness of the wasted hours and missed opportunities for millions of people across the globe.”

What would you have to miss out on?

• Let’s get social: In the UK, people spend an average of five hours 48 minutes on social networking sites per week (comScore). In Sub-Saharan Africa, that’s two trips to collect water. What would you rather be doing?

• I say! The average man will spend five hours a week staring at different women (Kodak Lens Vision Centres). In one week, the average woman in a developing country would have spent 21 hours collecting water.

• Wedding bells: A bride-to-be spends an average of 250 hours preparing for a wedding. For a woman in Africa, that time could be spent making 83 trips to collect water. You can bet she’d rather be planning her big day!

• Goal! Mr Average in Britain spends six hours and 12 minutes a week watching, talking about and keeping up-to-date on football (BT Vision). After that amount of time, a woman in the developing world could be making her third trip in one day to collect water.

• Break a sweat: The average adult exercises just 50 minutes a week (WeightWatchers) – less than a third of one trip to collect 20kg of water.

• Off to the shops: The average British woman spends 94 hours and 55 minutes shopping for food over one year, and more than 100 hours shopping for clothes (OnePoll). Women in sub-Saharan Africa spend the same amount of time collecting water in just one month. This time could be much better spent growing or selling their own food.

• School’s out: It takes a mighty 3,600 study hours to complete an Open University Honours degree. That’s little more than three years spent fetching water – time better spent on education.

• Beep, beep! It takes, on average, 47 hours of driving lessons to pass a driving test in the UK (DirectGov). In the same amount of time, millions in Africa will have made just 15 trips to collect water – and they won’t be making those journeys by car.

• On track: The average daily commute in the UK takes 47 minutes and 48 seconds (TUC). It might feel like 47 minutes too many, but it’s still less than a third of the time it takes to collect water in sub-Saharan Africa.

• A nice cuppa: We spend about six hours a week drinking tea and coffee (LearnDirect). That’s two trips to collect water, with no coffee break.

For 884 million people around the world currently living without one, a safe water supply close to home is both a lifesaver and a time-saver, enabling them to take a crucial step out of poverty.

“Water is essential for improving health, education, gender equality and economic growth,” added Girish. “Governments must commit to taking action to provide the world’s poorest with access to both clean water and safe sanitation. The world can’t wait any longer.”

Join the online walk for water to call for immediate action to end the global water crisis.

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