Water scarcity: Afghanistan's silent crisis

Severe successive droughts and the ever increasing consequences of climate change have led to Afghanistan's natural resources and water levels diminishing greatly. Compounding this, decades of conflict and instability, as well as economic crisis have led to the neglect and poor management of Afghanistan's water infrastructure, leaving many facilities and pipes in disrepair. As a result, millions of Afghans are currently unable to access safe water facilities, with rural communities being most affected: whole villages often do not have access to clean drinking water and face a lack of toilet and hygiene facilities. 

With UNICEF estimating that 8 in 10 Afghans currently drink unsafe water, millions of Afghan men, women and children risk preventable illness daily in the quest for drinking water, with deadly consequences: acute watery diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death in Afghan children under five. In addition, the inability to access water has also had considerable negative impacts on rural livelihoods, with farmers left without enough water to irrigate their lands, grow crops or care for their livestock, exacerbating rural poverty and worsening food insecurity. 

Our team have been working hard to deliver emergency water, sanitation and hygiene projects across Afghanistan through the current crisis. Read on to hear how your support has enabled us to bring clean water to communities who need it most.

Protecting vulnerable people

70-year-old Abdul Hakim lives with his three children in a remote village in Ferozkoh, Ghor Province. The head of a family of five, he does whatever he can to provide the best life possible for his household, whilst also living with a physical disability. Despite his disability, Adbul Hakim was forced to travel a long distance to fetch water to ensure his family could drink, cook and wash. “Every day I passed a long distance (one hour forth and back) to fetch water from a river” Abdul Hakim said, “On average, I brought four Jerry cans of water twice a day using a donkey from the river, which was really hard during the tough winter season.”

Unfortunately, the water Abdul Hakim collected was unsuitable for human consumption, which caused his family and community many health problems.

The river water was dirty and caused illnesses like diarrhoea, skin diseases and kidney stones problems...but we did not have any other option.

Afghanaid recognised these difficulties Abdul Hakim and his community faced when they surveyed his village. Listening to residents’ concerns, our local team began to implement an Emergency Water, Sanitation & Hygiene project in the village: one well was dug, three water reservoirs were constructed, and 44 water stand taps were constructed or rehabilitated. As well as this, one solar powered water supply system was installed, and an operation and maintenance committee was established to ensure the water network is well looked after and can serve residents for decades to come.

No longer having to worry about his family becoming ill, Abdul Hakim’s life has been changed for the better: “I am so happy that we can now use safe water!”

Supporting students to stay in school

For many schools in rural Afghanistan, a lack of proper toilet and hand washing facilities is a huge barrier to children receiving a good education, with high sickness rates meaning students would often have to miss lessons, and a lack of appropriate bathroom facilities also often leading to girls staying at home. With girls in Afghanistan now unable to access education beyond the primary level, removing any obstacles to the schooling they are still able to attend has never been more important.

"The students got sick a lot, and they would fall behind from their studies," Samira* one sixth-grade teacher told us. 

In order to support the education of young girls and boys, our teams built the school new toilet facilities and hand washing stations, whilst also educating the students on proper hygiene practices to ensure they could keep themselves healthy. 

"It’s a good thing that water came to us," Samira said, "We thank Afghanaid."

Our children are safe now and they can attend their schools and read their lessons instead of wasting many hours in a day collecting water.

Kebria, a widowed mother of three young children, was extremely worried about the health and futures of her children, whose trek to find water often meant they missed school. “We faced a lot of problems bringing water for drinking from very dangerous canyons,” Kebria told us, “The routes were very risky and dangerous especially for our children when we had to send them to collect water. We were losing so much time in a day." Despite the risks Kebria and her family took to collect water, it was often unsafe for them to drink. Having no other choice, the family battled many health problems as a result of drinking dirty water - Kebria and her children often suffered from diarrhoea, stomach aches and sore throats, further limiting their ability to go to school.

During the last half of 2022, Afghanaid built a water reservoir in her village, also providing a water tap inside every home to ensure each family had access to safe, drinking water, and would no longer be at risk of disease, or have to make difficult journeys to find water.

“I want to thank you because we were for a long time in a big problem… Afghanaid really helped us.” Kebria told us after a tap was installed in her home. “Now we are very happy to have healthy water in our houses, our children are healthier and we no longer have to pass the dangerous routes into the deep canyons to collect water."

With her children now healthy and able to focus on schooling, Kebria is safe in the knowledge that her children’s future has become brighter.

We need your help to reach more rural villages with clean water and hygiene facilities.

So far this year, we've supported thousands of families with water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, ensuring they avoid preventable illness, and are able to drink safe water, keep clean, earn an income and go to school.

Regular support from our wonderful monthly givers is a vital resource that has enabled us to do this. Having a reliable stream of funds that we can count on all year round, allows us to plan ahead and respond immediately when emergencies like the current water crisis strike. Help us support more rural families drink clean water by setting up a regular gift today.

*Names have been changed to protect project participant's privacy.

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