|Girls help each other wash hands, using water they have collected from a nearby stream, on the steps of the UNICEF-provided latrine at Bam Sarai School in Afghanistan’s central Bamyan Province.|
By Roshan Khadivi
On World Water Day, 20 March 2008, UNICEF is focusing on the importance of sanitation and hygiene in reaching global goals for safe water. Here is one in a series of related reports.
KABUL, Afghanistan, 20 March 2008 – Afghanistan has launched the International Year of Sanitation to advance cooperation among policymakers, humanitarian partners and communities on improving sanitation and increasing access to safe water around the country.
UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue helped launch the campaign, focusing on the impact of sanitation on education.
“We at UNICEF believe improvement in school water, sanitation and hygiene education not only promotes a healthy physical and learning environment,” said Ms. Mbengue. “It also increases girls’ enrolment and creates links between schools and communities, resulting in support for children's rights.”
Healthier schools and communities
Since 2004, the Healthy School Initiative (HIS), organized jointly by UN agencies and the Government of Afghanistan, has been implemented in 500 schools across 10 provinces.
The initiative, which is being expanded throughout the country, aims to provide children with quality education in a healthy environment – including access to safe water and separate latrines for girls and boys. HIS also conducts de-worming campaigns for schoolchildren and offers hygiene education for teachers and students.
Beyond school sanitation and hygiene, UNICEF and its partners in Afghanistan have constructed more than 11,000 wells and 59 pipe schemes for water networks, as well as building or rehabilitating over 1,700 reservoirs that serve a total of some 3.8 million people. And last year, UNICEF supported the construction of more than 23,000 latrines either in houses or in schools, benefiting 200,000 people – most of them children.
|UNICEF Representative Catherine Mbengue speaks during the launch of International Year of Sanitation in Afghanistan.|
“But still, with the current rate of progress, we will not reach our MDG [Millennium Development Goal] target on sanitation, and we need to do more to reach every community,” said Ms. Mbengue.
Differing urban and rural needs
The target set forth by the Government of Afghanistan is to halve, by 2020, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
It is estimated that only 23 per cent of households in Afghanistan have access to safe water – with 43 per cent having access in urban centres and 18 per cent in rural areas.
Sanitation needs differ depending upon location. In rural areas, the focus is on hygiene education and improved latrines. In cities, there is more of a need for functioning sewage systems.
Key messages on hygiene
The rural water and sanitation programme of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, together with the country’s ongoing water-supply and sanitation projects, aim to achieve Afghanistan’s long-term goals.
“We hope that the UN declaration of the year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation will bring more collaboration between the UN agencies, Afghan institutions and NGOs, and mobilize resources to assist our compatriots in the development of rural areas and elimination of this problem,” President Hamid Karzai said in a message he sent for last week’s launch event.
To celebrate World Water Day today, UNICEF is distributing an informational booklet that includes key messages on hygiene and sanitation in local languages throughout the country. Meanwhile, one village in each province has been selected to showcase how a community can participate in ensuring that all its families adopt key sanitation and hygiene practices.
World Water Day 2008
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