In Afghanistan’s most remote communities, instability, extreme poverty and a changing climate has meant water and sanitation infrastructure has been continually destroyed and deprioritised over decades, having far reaching impacts on the lives of ordinary Afghan families. 

One of the worrying impacts of a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities is the way in which it makes the daily challenges women and girls face even worse. For example, a lack of access to appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities in Afghanistan’s primary schools is discouraging many young girls from attending, and dirty water is forcing many children to stay at home due to illness. With girls in the country only able to attend school until the age of 11, any further obstructions to their ability to learn limits their ability to reach their potential.

Aziza's story

Aziza*, a ten year old girl from a mountainous community in rural Afghanistan, knows all too well the damaging impact dirty water and inadequate hygiene facilities can have on her limited schooling. “Most of us have been affected by different kinds of diseases,” Aziza told us, “Sometimes, I am not feeling good due to a sore throat, and my entire body will be hurting.”  

Incidents of waterborne illness are currently soaring across rural Afghanistan, as entire villages grapple with climate change-induced water scarcity. Illnesses caused by drinking or cleaning with unsafe water in turn make it harder for children to keep up their attendance at school. For girls, this is compounded due to a lack of appropriate toilets in primary schools. No latrines means that students have to travel to find a safe place to use the toilet - often in the open air. This makes many young girls embarrassed, worried for their safety, or absent for the classroom as they travel to toilets.

Building blocks of latrines so girls can use the bathroom safely and with dignity, and reducing illness through improving access to clean drinking water and handwashing stations in schools are simple but transformative solutions, tackling barriers to education to ensure young girls can keep learning for as long as they can.


Aziza’s school, an elementary school for girls, recently partnered with Afghanaid so the students could take classes on good sanitation and hygiene practices, whilst also gaining access to new latrines and handwashing stations. With many students having never had access to adequate sanitation facilities or information on proper hygiene practices, these sessions provided them with life-saving knowledge, both for themselves, but also for their families.

Aziza told us how beneficial this training had been to her whole family: “Before, I did not know some things, such as how to wash my hands, and my family also did not, especially my Mum. She doesn’t know about those essential things because what she knew of hygiene was too little to teach me the important lessons. My entire school had the same problem which I had.”

Equipped with their new knowledge, and enthused with their new clean facilities, Aziza and other girls in her community will now be able to attend school more often, and do some free from the worries of illness, ensuring they are able to make the most of the precious years of education they are able to access.

Aziza recognised how keeping well was vital in ensuring she could continue learning:

“Despite the hard situation we are in, me and my friends want to make something of our futures - for my family and friends, I hope they will be proud of me one day. Through this project, Afghanaid gave me hope and dignity.”

(Image: Richard Pohle/The Times)

In recent times, we’ve worked in 12 girls' primary schools in Aziza’s area to construct and repair 67 latrines, and install permanent handwashing stations. 360 households have also benefited from new pipe schemes, wells and water reservoirs, bringing clean drinking water to households particularly vulnerable to water scarcity. 

"Without toilets it was very shameful for us. Now it is so much better, we have a safe place. This will really encourage more girls to come to school."

Gulrukh, a primary school student from a village nearby to Aziza's

The impact has been considerable in Aziza's area: “Usually there would be ten new registrations for the next school year,” an Afghanaid social organiser who has worked with the communities in the area for more than a decade, explained to us. “For the next year there are 23 and they are mostly girls. Before, only six villages sent their girls to the primary school. Now eight have agreed.”

Help us create more ripples of change across Afghanistan

By improving access to water and sanitation services across Afghanistan, we can enable women and girls to lead safer and more enriched lives. This International Women's Day, through initiatives such as building safe and secure latrines and hand washing stations, as well as educating young girls on hygiene practices, we can ensure more girls across Afghanistan are able to attend school for as long as possible.

This vital work would not be possible without your generosity. With your donations, we can enable women and girls to tap into their potential and create ripples of change throughout their communities.

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*Please note, all names have been changed