Afghanistan: Safe water for Dand Wa Patan

The diesel engine of the huge drilling machine roars to the green fields and a massive iron rotary drill champs another piece of soil and rock from the depth of about 30 meters beneath the surface. Around the heavy machine stand about ten children from neighboring houses and watch the metal monster's work with curiosity. They as well as they parents know that the annoying procedure will soon result in the huge benefit - safe drinking water for their and two more surrounding villages. Maybe they feel happy somewhere deep in their minds; happy that they won't have to spend again hours and hours on the backs of donkeys to fetch the most vulnerable liquid from the muddy river two kilometers away.

Dand Wa Patan district is situated in the Paktya province in eastern Afghanistan, just on the boarder with neighboring Pakistan. The local people are Pasthoons, wearing the turbans, typical round caps known as "pakuls" or "kandari" - small Pasthoon style hats. The district is a godforsaken place and People in Need (PIN) is one of two organizations which work here. The well is being drilled under a Water and Sanitation project funded by ECHO -Commission Humanitarian Aid department and soon it starts providing the local people with clean drinking water; teach them elementary hygiene standards and educate them how to treat water for drinking and cooking. All this with the aim to improve living standards and decrease occurrence of wide spread water born diseases which represent one of the major factors of the high mortality of the local population.

„It s not only about establishing of new water points like the bore wells or protection and further distribution of mountain springs that will give excellent drinking water and replace traditional sources like rivers, streams or even puddles from which people currently take water for drinking. The emphases are also on educational element of the project, to explain and teach the people about the proper storage and utilization of water. We also conduct trainings promoting basic hygienic standards to help the people to understand elementary habits concerning personal hygiene, origin of diseases and others, "explains Mohammad Yari, project manager of PIN.

During the hygiene promotion trainings PIN trainers either conduct the trainings of the villagers themselves, mainly women or identify and appoint respected local figures like teachers, mullahs or elders to become future hygiene promoters. Agenda of the trainings might look quite primitive at the beginning of the 21st century but in the isolated and underdeveloped districts like Dand Wa Patan it directly responses to gaps in local knowledge and practices. Trainers travel from village to village and explain to people how to brush their teeth, how to dispose the excrements, why to wash their hands after using the toilet and other basic issues related to personal hygiene. "Local people know very little about the personal hygiene and about the factors which lead to their high morbidity and in the final effect to high mortality especially among children. They are not aware of some basic things. It is time to change it," adds Yari. PIN project is just a small step towards reaching these wishes but at the same time a very important one.

Project facts:

- 30 new bore wells (depth from 50-60 meters) will be constructed

- 15 pipe schemes and spring protections will be constructed or reconstructed

- 5 karezes (traditional ground water channels) will be rehabilitated and reconstructed.

- Hygiene promotion trainings for 60 villages (total population approx.: 44.100 people) and 9 schools (4.600 students and 109 teachers)

- Establishing the system of Operation & Maintenance for all newly established water points

Duration: June 2006 - May 2007

Funded by ECHO - Humanitarian Fund of European Union

Implemented by PIN

Jan Pavelka