Water made accessible to remote areas in Afghanistan

Leave no one behind

By Monica Awad
Boys drinking water
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019/Sherzai
22 March 2019

Aibak, Samangan, 22 March 2019 -  For 40-year old Thuraya, life has been unbearable.  Six years ago, she lost her husband to cancer, and she was left with no choice but to stand on her own feet to support her children.

In a village, where the labour market is almost non-existent, Thuraya had limited work opportunities. 

“I started doing embroidery and crochet,” says Thuraya pointing at the pillow cases she just completed.  “I need not only to feed my children, but also to buy them some stationery for school.”

Thuraya works for a women’s organization, where they bring her the materials and in return, she uses her talent to do some embroidery and crochet.  She earns Afs 2,500 on a monthly basis, which is equivalent to $30.  “This is not enough to feed my kids,” she adds.

To survive, and given the limited work opportunities, Thuraya had no choice but to send her oldest son,  Ahmed, 20,  to Turkey, in search of jobs. 

“At the beginning my son Ahmed was sending us Afs 2,500, but for the past few months, he became jobless,” adds Thuraya with tearful eyes.

Living in a tiny mud house of two rooms and a small yard, Thuraya spends her day attending to her children, and in the evenings, she spends hours till early morning, finishing the crochet and embroidery.

Amidst this misery, Thuraya is very happy that now she has access to clean water.

“I am very thankful that at least we managed to get water into the house,” adds Thuraya pointing at the courtyard, where her 11-year old son Samir, was filling their house storage tank with water coming from a piped network system. 

UNICEF Afghanistan/2019/Awad
Sahar, 7 is the youngest family member. They lost their father six years ago to cancer. Their 40-year old mother, Thuraya was forced to find work to feed the family. Samir and Sahar used to carry water home, but now, they are connected to a water network, and have access to water at all times.

“In the past, we relied on water trucking which was not very clean, and my children and I used to spend lots of time carrying water bottles three times a week.”

This is not the only advantage that Thuraya and her family have benefitted from.

“We used to bathe once a week, now we have water and we bathe three times a week,” says her son Samir with a smile.

With the Ministry of Rural Development and Rehabilitation, UNICEF dug a well in the village.   And to ensure a sustainable water system, UNICEF also established a piped water network system with household connections, reaching the whole village of at least 400 families.

A joint endeavour for continued sustainability

UNICEF also works with the local community, which is headed by the village council, known as Shura to raise awareness of families on proper hygiene practices, and to ensure that the system is well -maintained.

“We are so proud of this project, and we are constantly raising the awareness of families, especially children on proper hygiene practices,” says Haji Mohammad, Head of Shura.  

To sustain the network system, the Shuras are collecting Afs 100 {equivalent to $1.2} on a monthly basis from each family.

“We are constantly maintaining the well, and the piped water network system,” adds Mohammad. 

The well is not only serving the 400 families who live in the village, but it is also serving an additional 1,000 families.

“These families come from surrounding villages to fetch water from the filling points,” adds Mohammad.  “We are so happy to help them in getting the water they need.”

The village Shuras (village council) in one of Aibak’s villages in Samangan province of Afghanistan.
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019/Awad
The village Shuras (village council) in one of Aibak’s villages in Samangan province of Afghanistan.

Reaching sustainable development goals

Under the Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF also supported the establishment of the regional water quality laboratory.

 “Thanks to UNICEF, we are able to screen water against any chemicals and bacteria to ensure safe drinking water for our people,” says Abdel Karim Shayek, laboratory technologist.

Through this project, and with partners, UNICEF aims to reach Sustainable Development Goal 6.1, where safely managed water is not only improved, but accessible in each house, readily available when needed, and most importantly, it is free from bacteria.

It is for millions of children like Samir, we must not leave any child behind.  Whoever these children are, wherever they are, water is their human right.