Afghanistan

Safe water saves lives and restores childhoods: Children have to walk 40 minutes to reach the water

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© UNICEF Afghanistan/2020/Nahida Ahmadi

By: Ajmal Sherzai & Nahida Ahmadi

My mother is sick,” says 12-year old Fariba, from Khair Abad village, in the Nawmish district of Daikundi province in central Afghanistan. “So, I have to fetch water four or five times each day. The river I go to is four kilometers away from my home.”

Around 1,100 children, like Fariba, live there; they are deprived of many of their basic rights, including access to safe drinking water.

The source of water for 250 families living in Khair Abad village is the natural spring four kilometers away. Children have to walk 40 minutes to reach the water and then they have to queue because, according to Fariba, “The spring was low and there wasn’t much water, so we had to wait hours to fill our containers.”

“Because the water source was very far from the village, some of the children even fainted on the way because the jerry cans they carried were too heavy,” said Maryam, 45 years old, and a mother of six.

Furthermore, Maryam added, “Before the water tap project, the level of diseases was very high and most of the women and children became sick because of contaminated water. We saw more diseases like diarrhea among children because families did not have facilities to boil the water with which they cooked.”

As per the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, 33 per cent of people in Afghanistan do not have access to basic drinking water (JMP, 2017).

But thanks to funding from USAID, UNICEF Afghanistan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, built a water supply system benefitting the whole of Khair Abad village. The new water system reaches around 250 families.

The water supply system is a gravity-fed system from a spring with a water reservoir that can hold 50 cubic meters and supply household connections through a piped network. Now, every household in the village has access to a tap on their premises.

Not only is Fariba relieved to have a supply of clean water in her village, but the new tap has enabled her to reclaim her childhood.

“I am very happy that I got rid of the tiring job of bringing water every day; I have enough time now to study and play with my friends,” says Fariba – with a beaming smile.