Across rural Afghanistan, limited access to water is creating enormous challenges for remote communities, impacting their ability to stay healthy, make an income, grow food and keep clean. 

Decades of conflict and instability has left many rural communities in Afghanistan with minimal water pumping, storage and distribution infrastructure. Additionally, in recent years, climate change-induced droughts has forced many families to travel further and further in the search of water. Despite these long journeys, sometimes only dirty water is still the only water that is accessible, leaving families at risk of diseases. Currently, 8 in 10 Afghans consume dirty water each day. 

With women and girls typically responsible for the home and the family, it typically falls upon them to fetch water for their households' needs. These arduous trips that women and girls across Afghanistan take are often extremely dangerous, with many travelling through mountain passes in extreme weather conditions to fill buckets of water. In extreme heat, these trips can lead to sunstroke. In extreme cold, hypothermia. 

These long and frequent trips also rob women and girls of valuable time to learn, pursue livelihoods, and rest - placing even more limits on the ability of Afghan girls to reach their potential and enjoy fulfilled lives, further solidifying gender inequality in Afghanistan. 

UNICEF estimates that women and girls across the world spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. That is 200 million hours of learning, 200 million hours of earning an income, and 200 million hours of opportunity lost. 

Sara's story

In Samangan province, an area acutely affected by repeated droughts, access to clean drinking water is a significant challenge, especially for marginalised, rural communities. Sara*, a mother with five young children, reflected on the challenges that she and her neighbours experienced with collecting water: 

"In the village, our women and children had to fetch drinking water from a faraway distance, affecting the sanitation and hygiene of all our households. The use of dirty water exposed our children to various diseases... There was a big lack of drinking water and no proper hygiene facilities in our house.”

Recognising the immediate need of Sara's community to access clean water, as well as the benefits it would bring to the lives of women and girls in the local area, Afghanaid implemented a new water, sanitation and hygiene project in her area. In total, 53 stand taps were built, with one tap supplying two households. A well and reservoir were constructed to supply groundwater to the taps, with the local Community Development Committee receiving a tools package and training to ensure the village itself can maintain and repair the new water system.

The well, reservoir and taps have now addressed our safety issues, giving us clean water and resolving the health concerns we had with drinking dirty water. We are thankful to Afghanaid and the project team.

Before, it was tough for our children and us women to bring water from far away. Now, with wells and water storage, we have safe water and more time. This helps keep our children healthy and provides water for our animals. The new well has also made it easier for everyone in the village to stay clean and healthy.

Young girls in the village using a new water tap

Through the collaborative efforts of Afghanaid and the local community, this project not only provided access to clean drinking water, but also enabled villagers like Sara to take ownership of their health and wellbeing, and gain back valuable time. Now no longer having to make long daily trips to retrieve water, Sara and other mothers in her village are able to better care for their children, have more time for income-earning ventures, and enjoy the flexibility and relaxation that more time gives them. The community's young girls can focus on being children, rather than having to step up and help with household tasks.

By addressing the gendered impacts at play in water collection and promoting community stewardship in sustaining project efforts, Sara, her children, and her community can now look forward to a healthier future, full of new possibilities.

Clean water at their fingertips

By supporting Afghanaid this International Women's Day, you can be part of the ripples of change created when women and girls have access to clean water, leaving a liquid legacy of potential and opportunity: 

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*Please note, we have changed her name to protect her privacy