Life is hard and fresh water is scarce in rural Afghanistan.
Having access to safe drinking water has so far been nothing more than a dream in this rural village. The villager’s only deep well was damaged years ago. Since then, residents’ only option has been to collect water from rain or nearby ponds.
“Sometimes the water inside of the pond freezes in winter,” says Goldasta, 28. “We have to break the ice by using stones. It is very cold. Our children’s hands end up blistered and blue.” Here in the village, even access to dirty water is difficult.
Although she's ashamed to admit it, Goldasta doesn’t boil the water. “To be honest with you, we can’t afford to boil water,” she says. “Once the children bring the water, I filter it with a cloth, to remove the dirt.”
In Afghanistan, 73 per cent of households still lack access to safe drinking water, and 95 per cent lack access to improved sanitation. It is a fact that without clean water and sanitation, people are more likely to get sick, and children are the ones most affected. Over six out of every 100 deaths in Afghanistan is due to diarrhea, the most common preventable illness among children under five.*
“Our children, even our newborns, suffer diarrhea,” says Goldasta. “I know the reason, but what can we do? When you are thirsty, you quench your thirst by drinking water, no matter the quality.”
As hard as it is to break the ice on the pond in the winter, it is preferable to summer conditions when the pond dries up and residents are forced to walk long distances—usually more than one hour—to fetch water from the closest spring. The search for water is one of the main reasons children do not go to school.
“Three times a week I am responsible for collecting 20 litres of water either from the ponds or spring,” says Morteza, 12. “On those days, I can’t go to school.”
Because they must help their families collect water in order to survive, the majority of children in the village are unable to attend school regularly. Goldasta worries that her village might not have a bright future, “because when our children grow up, they will either be poor shepherds or illiterate farmers.”
Once a week a water tanker comes near to Goldasta’s village to distribute water for the villagers. “The road to our village is impassable,” she says, “so the vehicle can’t come inside.” Regardless, the day the truck arrives is a good day and groups of children with jerry cans rush to the vehicle to get water.
The lack of water also affects family incomes and domestic animals. “I [had to] sell my cow because it used to drink three barrels of water a day; I can’t provide enough water for my family, how could I give enough water to the cow?” says one community member, shaking his head.
Photo©2015 World Vision, Narges Ghafar