Medical bills for poor families in central Afghanistan are being cut as a result of Tearfund work to improve health standards.
Illnesses, such as diarrhoea, are commonplace among people living in the Parwan District who mostly rely on streams as their source of drinking water.
Such unhygienic supplies often lead to residents, especially children, becoming sick and the cost of treatment can eat up large amounts of already meagre incomes.
Tearfund is providing training in hygiene and sanitation to communities in Parwan. One aspect of this is changing attitudes about where people go to the toilet and discouraging them from using open, public spaces, where the risk of contamination to water sources is high.
The importance of hand washing is conveyed through practical and interactive sessions aimed at changing behaviours.
Bio-sand filters are also supplied to families and they massively reduce the contaminants in stream water, such as bacteria and worms.
‘We always used to drink from streams and all our children had diarrhoea,’ said one woman participant in Tearfund training from Sabzi Khil village.
‘We spent half our income on medical costs to help them because we didn’t understand the problems, but now we do.
‘During the short time in which we received a bio-sand filter from Tearfund, we saw a big change and our children are now better and well.
‘The filter is better than any other gift. I hope our other villages can also see these changes.’
To ensure Tearfund’s work has a lasting impact and is sustainable, those that do the training also train school teachers who are then able to pass knowledge on to their pupils.
Teachers have embraced the training and some have been thinking of their own ways to spread the hygiene messages to the wider community.
In and around Kandahar city, Tearfund has been running public health education workshops, where people learn about hygiene and disease prevention.
One man who took part says he learnt for the first time the importance of preventative measures:
‘Now we use soap to wash our hands several times a day and keep separate dishes for sick individuals rather than sharing like previously,’ he said. ‘We keep the environment clean and have gatherings so we are able to share problems in our village and find ways to keep safe from diseases.’