Time Spent Fetching Water Keeps Girls Out of School in Nigeria


The days begin early for 13-year-old Uzzaya Idris, who lives with her family in Gabarin, a village in northeast Nigeria’s Bauchi state. She’s up by 6 a.m. every morning to fetch the water her family will use for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing clothes. 

There’s open water closer to the village, but the water is polluted. Cholera, a waterborne disease, is endemic in Nigeria; in 2021, the country experienced its worst cholera outbreak in a decade. By mid-December 2021, a total of 107,9111 suspected cases had been reported by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, including 3,598 deaths — more than the 3,027 COVID-19 deaths confirmed since the start of the pandemic. 

The time-consuming trek to the nearest uncontaminated water source falls to the girls and women of the village. “I fetch water once a day in the morning, but I have to walk a really long way to get it,” Uzzaya says.

Time spent collecting water is time away from school, denying girls a chance to build a better future

“Fetching water has really affected my studies,” she says. “Most of the time, by the time I get back, lessons have already started. And sometimes, by the time I get to school, it’s already break time.”

“If I didn’t have to fetch water every morning, I would be on time to school. I would have time to visit my relatives and even some time for myself.” 

UNICEF is working with partners in Nigeria to build capacity and strengthen state-level water, sanitation and hygiene services in emergencies. In 2022, UNICEF plans to reach 1.6 million people in Nigeria with safe drinking water. 

Support UNICEF’s work to remove the water burden from girls, so they can get a quality education and reach their full potential. Please donate. 

The bipartisan Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to harness the power of U.S. Government to address the barriers that prevent girls from getting an education. Urge your Members of Congress to support legislation that empowers girls around the world.

Top photo: For 13-year-old Uzzayah Idris in Bauci state, Nigeria, time spent fetching water for her family means less time in the classroom. UNICEF is working to ease the water burden that prevents girls from getting a quality education. Video edited by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.

Categorized as unicef