During COP26, women in developing countries will miss out on 2.5 million working days due to lack of basic water services

October 29, 2021
girl walking to fetch water
WaterAid/ Etinosa Yvonne

With the climate crisis impacting water availability, WaterAid urges world leaders to meet their $100bn climate finance target sooner than 2023.

With COP26 only days away, WaterAid Canada is calling on world leaders to meet their $100 billion climate finance commitment sooner than 2023, as estimates show that just during the 12 days of the summit, women in developing countries will miss out on 2.5 million working days globally due to a lack of basic water services nearby.1 

With women and girls usually responsible for collecting water, the lack of these services means they often have to walk for hours to get clean water, leaving them no time to work and no capacity to respond to climate impacts. These impacts can themselves hamper the access even further as water sources become less reliable or flooded and polluted, and journeys get longer. 

Earlier this week, rich nations published a Climate Finance Delivery Plan, confirming they won’t deliver on their long-promised target of $100 billion each year to support poorer countries battling the impacts of the climate crisis. The target is expected to be met by 2023, three years later than promised. 

WaterAid has warned that many people can’t wait that long, as frequent flooding and longer droughts are a matter of life or death for many vulnerable people on the front lines of the climate crisis. Climate change is likely to exacerbating these impacts for millions of people already living without clean water, decent toilets or good sanitation, the organization said.

During the 12 days of COP26, estimates show the urgent need for action. A lack of basic water means communities on the front line of climate change are already struggling with overlapping crises and it’s costing lives: 

  • 8640 children under the age of five around the world could die from diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor toilets.2   
  • A woman responsible for water collection will spend 60 hours, or 20% of COP26, collecting water for her family of four to drink, cook and wash with.3 
  • 2,880 lives of children under five could be saved from diarrheal deaths if everyone, everywhere, had access to clean water.4 


Nicole Hurtubise, WaterAid Canada Chief Executive Officer, said:

"As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, almost every country worldwide committed to provide financial support to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of our changing climate. Six years on, still not enough money is flowing to the frontlines. There has been insufficient investment and attention being paid to the effects of climate change on clean water and sanitation services."

"High income countries should live up to their commitments and fulfill their responsibilities to provide new and additional climate finance in line with the $100 billion annual commitments already made."

In 2009 richer nations, committed to supporting poorer nations protect themselves against the effects of climate change by providing $100bn by 2020. Only 80 per cent of this money has been delivered, according to the latest data. In addition, only a fraction – around 25 per cent – is going towards helping communities adapt, while that should be at least half, according to WaterAid.   

WaterAid is committed to working with governments, the private sector, other international organizations to expand access to sustainable clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Full list of stats and sources can be found below.   


For more information, please contact: Onome Oraka, Head of Communications and Brand, WaterAid Canada at [email protected]

Notes to Editors:   


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organization works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org/ca

Stats & Sources 

  • Diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor toilets kills one child under the age of five every two minutes.  
  • Basic water services alone could save women 77 million working days per year, meaning 2.5 million days just during the 12 days of COP26. 
  • The WHO estimates that a minimum of 50 liters of water per person per day is needed to meet basic drinking, cooking and washing needs. So, a woman responsible for fetching the water for a family of four, whose walk for water is a half hour round trip with a 20 liter jerrycan, would spend five hours a day just fetching water. That means 60 hours during the 12 days of COP26. 
  • If everyone, everywhere had clean water, the number of diarrheal deaths would be cut by a third. 


  1.  Prüss-Ustün A, et al. (2019). Burden of Disease from Inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Selected Adverse Health Outcomes: An Updated Analysis with a Focus on Low- and Middle-Income Countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. vol. 222, no 5, pp 765-777. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31088724/ 
  2. UNICEF (2016). UNICEF: Collecting water is often a colossal waste of time for women and girls. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-collecting-water-often-colossal-waste-time-women-and-girls  
  3. WaterAid. (2021) Mission-critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery. Available at: https://washmatters.wateraid.org/sites/g/files/jkxoof256/files/mission-critical-invest-in-water-sanitation-and-hygiene-for-a-healthy-and-green-economic-recovery_2.pdf   
  4. WaterAid. (2021) Turn The Tide: The State Of The World’s Water 2021. Available at: https://washmatters.wateraid.org/sites/g/files/jkxoof256/files/turn-the-tide-the-state-of-the-worlds-water-2021_2.pdf  
  5. Prüss-Ustün A, et al. (2019). Burden of Disease from Inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Selected Adverse Health Outcomes: An Updated Analysis with a Focus on Low- and Middle-Income Countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. vol. 222, no 5, pp 765-777. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31088724/