Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential to the survival and development of children. In Afghanistan, diarrhoeal diseases are the second most common cause of death for children under the age of five, after acute respiratory infections.
One of the most effective ways to save children’s lives is by teaching them proper hygiene practices – especially regular handwashing with water and soap – and guaranteeing them clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. Without these, children can suffer from diarrhoea and stunting (which means low weight for age and delayed cerebral development). In Afghanistan, two out of five young children are stunted.
More than 65 per cent of Afghans have clean drinking water through ‘improved drinking water sources’ that are protected from outside contamination – a marked progress from a decade ago when drinking water reached only 20 per cent of people. However, although a little more than 80 per cent of families have toilets or latrines, only about 40 per cent are improved and safe – meaning they hygienically separate human waste from human contact.
Open defecation continues to be a dangerous challenge in Afghanistan because human waste near waterways and living environments spreads diseases quickly and puts children and their families at risk.