FEATURE STORY

Access to Potable Water Leads to Decline in Waterborne Diseases in Afghanistan Village

October 3, 2016


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All Karezak households now use clean water, brought to their houses by a network of plumbing, to drink, cook, bathe, and wash their clothes and dishes.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Story Highlights
  • Access to clean, potable water is making a significant difference to the health of residents of a village in Herat Province. There has been a decline in waterborne diseases since the installation of a new water system.
  • Providing access to clean water is one of the essential activities under the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). NSP is the Government of Afghanistan’s flagship program for rural development, which supported the installation of the water system.
  • The program is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and supported by the International Development Association (IDA) - the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), and Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF).

ENJIL DISTRICT, Herat Province – Daad Mohammad, 45, washes his daughter’s face with cool, clear water running from the faucet. Sitting happily beside her father, the little girl splashes the water playfully. The sun’s arc has reached the middle of the sky, its rays turning hot. With his large hands, Daad Mohammad pours some water over his daughter’s head, then his own. They both drink from the faucet.

On the other side of the yard, Daad Mohammad’s wife washes the family’s clothes. The family lives in lower Karezak village, which lies in the Enjil district of Herat Province, in the west of Afghanistan. It is only recently that Daad Mohammad and his family are enjoying this access to clean, potable water through direct piping to their home from a regular and standard water supply system.

Some 380 families live in Karezak village, around half of whom farm while the other half do manual work or other jobs. The villagers had previously faced many problems stemming from their lack of access to clean water. “People, particularly children, got skin diseases and malaria,” says Daad Mohammad. “We had no clean water to drink and life was difficult for us.”

Before the water supply system was built, the villagers used water from a canal and rivulet, which usually turned muddy in the spring and often contaminated with bacteria and parasites in the summer. Both the canal and rivulet are about a kilometer from the heart of the village, and villagers had to walk the distance there and back daily.

“Most of the women in Karezak village used to wash their dirty dishes and clothes in the canal and rivulet, neither of which were properly clean,” says Fayeqa, 24, a resident. “There was always someone sick in our households.” 

To tackle these challenges, the Community Development Council (CDC) of Karezak began working on a sub-project to build a regular water supply system and two culverts in the village in 2013. The sub-project was an initiative under the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) which operates nationally under the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). 


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The project aims to generate a strong sense of ownership and social stability among the population, while enhancing service delivery and security.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

" Since the new water supply system was built in our village, the incidents of diseases have declined.  "

Jalil Ahmad

Resident, Karezak village

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Before the water supply system was built, the villagers used water from a canal and rivulet, which turned muddy in the spring and was often contaminated. The newly dug deep well follows Afghan standards and is more than 50 meters deep. In order to provide sufficient pressure for the water supply, the water tank is installed 12 meters above the well. When it runs empty, a water pump automatically turns on to fill it up.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Strong community ownership

NSP is supported by the International Development Association (IDA) -  the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), and Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF). It aims to generate a strong sense of ownership and social stability among the population, while enhancing service delivery and security. NSP projects accomplish these goals through empowerment and development activities, in which communities identify, plan, manage, and monitor their own projects.

Since 2003, NSP has successfully established CDCs in over 35,000 communities across the country. CDCs have managed more than 89,600 rural infrastructure schemes, of which over 79,000 have been completed to date.

NSP has been operating in all 15 districts of Herat Province since 2003 and has created 2,563 CDCs, such as the one in Karezak village. In cooperation with other partner organizations, CDCs have completed 5,266 small and large sub-projects in the province. More than 200 sub-projects are currently being implemented, covering a wide range of sectors, including education, health, water supply, transportation, and electricity.

One of the completed sub-projects include the water supply system in Karezak village. The sub-project involved digging an 80-meter-deep well, installing a water tank with a capacity of 25 cubic meters, building 4,500 meters of plumbing and pipe work into village houses, and installing water meters. The cost of the water supply sub-project, including building of the culverts, was afghanis 3,306,000 ($47,900), of which the villagers contributed afghanis 300,000 ($4,300). The project was completed in 2014, bringing clean water to the village.

Clean water for cooking and cleaning

All Karezak households now use clean water, brought to their houses by a network of plumbing, to drink, cook, bathe, and wash their clothes and dishes. Jalil Ahmad, 27, another resident, notes that the access to clean water has resulted in a fall in waterborne diseases. “People used to fall ill to various diseases due to the lack of access to clean water,” he says. “However, since the new water supply system was built in our village, the incidents of diseases have declined.”

Although a limited number of households in Karezak village had wells in the past, these wells were less than 50 meters deep and their water was contaminated by shallow ground water. The newly dug deep well follows Afghan standards and is more than 50 meters deep. In order to provide sufficient pressure for the water supply, the water tank is installed 12 meters above the well. When it runs empty, a water pump automatically turns on to fill it up.

“It only takes opening a faucet to access clean water,” says Haji Ghulam Haidar, 60, the head of the Karezak CDC. “This convenience has encouraged many households to install boilers in their houses so that they can bathe and wash their clothes and dishes with warm and clean water.”

Mohammad Amin Mehryar, a UN Habitat engineer, points out that providing a water supply system to access clean and potable water is one of the most important activities undertaken by NSP. “Many communities in Herat Province have built water supply systems through this program, which has led to a significant decline in waterborne diseases as reported by clinics,” he says.


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