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New campaign to tackle water and sanitation related disease in Afghanistan

“Five cleans” approach combines hygiene education with physical safeguarding of water supply.

KABUL, 24 June 2004 – The Afghan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development is joining forces with UNICEF and other partners to launch a new nationwide campaign to tackle water-related disease in Afghanistan. The campaign, which is officially launched on Sunday 27 June, will combine a number of initiatives, including hygiene education, health promotion and the physical safeguarding of the water supply.

Afghanistan faces high incidences of water and sanitation-related diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, scabies and trachoma. UNICEF estimates that up to half of the deaths of all children under the age of five are related to diarrhoeal disease, caused by inadequate sanitation, lack of clean drinking water and poor hygiene practices. The significant increase in urban populations brought about by high numbers of returnees in the last two years has placed particular strain on the water and sanitation systems in Afghanistan’s major cities, with households increasingly using contaminated ground-water from shallow wells for drinking and food preparation.

The new campaign will focus on school and community hygiene education, which will be followed by the chlorination of shallow wells and the social marketing of safe water and sanitation systems. The focus of the school and community hygiene education will be on five water, sanitation and hygiene issues, coined “Panj Pak” (or “Five Cleans”). These are Clean Water; Clean Latrines; Clean Hands; Clean Environment and Clean Food. The Afghan Ministry of Health has just completed the training of over 1,000 hygiene promoters who will undertake house-to-house, school and mosque-based hygiene promotion exercises and the dissemination of hygiene messages to local populations. An estimated 2 million people will be reached through these exercises over a five day period following Sunday’s launch. The campaign will extend from Kabul to other cities including Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.

UNICEF’s head of water and sanitation programmes in Afghanistan Manuel Freitas welcomed the start of the campaign saying “In order to effectively tackle the water-related diseases that contribute to such high child mortality rates in Afghanistan, it is essential to have a fully coordinated approach. This new campaign brings together the key elements needed to start reducing those alarming statistics.”

“Simply cleaning the water supply, or improving household sanitation by itself is not enough,” added Freitas. “Physical improvements have to go hand in hand with improved hygiene practices in the home, such as proper food preparation and storage, personal cleanliness and safe use of water.”

The Panj Pak campaign will be launched on Sunday 27 June at 09:00am at the Ministry of Health in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, as well as UNICEF, WHO, PSI, Save the Children (USA), Management Science for Health, REACH and Care International.

For further information please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media - +93 (0)7960 7400




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