Access to clean water and modern energy services has improved everywhere, but remains low in some developing regions, including Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Poor access to both of these services has a huge impact on health and survival, while also increasing the workloads of both women and men. About half of the population living in developing regions lack access to improved drinking water sources in their homes or on the premises, with the task of water collection falling mostly on the shoulders of women. In settings where women and men do not have equal access to health services, as in some parts of Asia, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene may result in more female than male deaths. Women in developing countries are also more exposed than men to indoor pollutants resulting from the use of firewood and other solid fuels, due to their role in cooking and caring for children and other family members.
The impact of extreme climate events and disasters also has a gender dimension. Although limited, available data suggest that age and sex are significant factors in mortality resulting from natural disasters. Their contribution varies by country and by type of hazard. For instance, a higher risk of death among women than men was noted mainly in the context of recent tsunamis and heatwaves. Gender roles and norms can also play a role in the aftermath of disasters. In some post-disaster settings, women’s access to work and their involvement in decision-making related to recovery efforts and risk-reduction strategies remain more limited than men’s.
Environmental protection, and consequently sustainable development, require that both women and men become actively involved through day-to-day activities and are equally represented in decision-making at all levels. More and more people are engaging in environmental protection activities, including recycling and cutting back on driving to reduce pollution; women tend to be more involved than men, which is somewhat linked to the gender division of domestic labour. However women’s involvement in local and national policy formulation and decision-making in natural resources and environment management remains limited.