Dirty water: More deadly than war

Dirty water: More deadly than war | World Vision

An Afghan girl collects water. (©2012 Narges Ghafary/World Vision)

More than 16 times as many children die from diarrhea caused by dirty water in Afghanistan as the total number of civilians killed in war.

Today is World Water Day. Read how World Vision is helping to bring clean water to villages in Afghanistan — and what you can do to help bring clean water to the world!

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The World Health Organization estimates that more than 133 Afghan children die every day because of the effects of diarrhea. That adds up to over 48,000 children a year.

While Afghans are certainly affected by the conflict within their country, the number of Afghan deaths attributed to the war in 2011 was just over 3,000. That means that 16 times as many children are dying from an extremely common and easily treated medical condition than the entire number of men, women, and children killed as a result of the war.

Robat e Hashim is a village that has, historically, had very a very high number of diarrheal cases, even for Afghanistan. Without access to clean water, residents relied on contaminated river water for all of their needs, including drinking.

Del Jan, 45, is a mother of six. She and her family live in Robat e Hashim. To this day, access to clean water remains a struggle for them.

“Every day when my 12-year-old daughter, Arezo, comes back from school, she takes the barrel to go fetch water from [the] well,” says Del Jan, noting that the nearest well is about 200 meters away. “She has a cart and usually carries five barrels, which is around 50 liters of water.”

Some days, one trip to the well is enough; other days, Arezo must make the trip four times or more.

Carrying such a big load is difficult for the young girl, especially when weather conditions are harsh. “In the winter, [it] is so difficult for me to go to the well and gather water,” says Arezo. “My hands freeze and become red, making it hard to carry the barrel.”

She explains that during the winter, the road conditions make it impossible for her to use the cart, forcing her to make many more trips to the well in frigid temperatures, carrying one bucket at a time.

“Sometimes I fall or drop the barrel,” she says. “[Then] I have to go back and gather water again.” Water collection takes a lot Arezo’s time — time that would be better spent studying.

“Sometimes Arezo is sick and can’t gather water. [Then] I have to give a small barrel to my 4-year-old daughter to fetch water,” explains Del Jan with disappointment in her voice.

Despite their daily difficulties, things are getting better. Until recently, the family had no access to clean water. They were forced to rely on river water for all of their needs. In 2012, World Vision drilled two deep wells nearby, one of which is in their community.

Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done as the distance and long queues continue to be an obstacle to clean water.

“I know that [the number of people with] diarrhea is less than before, but still people — including my family — are suffering from that,” says Del Jan.

In addition to physical suffering, diarrhea is also a financial burden. “The economic condition of people here is not good,” explains Den Jan, explaining that many families simply do not have the resources to pay for medicines.

“If we have clean water in our homes, the diarrhea disease would be less and our money could be saved for buying other important things, such as fruits and vegetables for our children,” she adds.

World Vision is working with communities not only to provide access to clean water, but also information about appropriate sanitation practices to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from illnesses like diarrhea.

Between August 2012 and December 2013, 90,700 people — including 18,140 children under the age of 5 — in 285 villages were supported through World Vision's water, sanitation, and hygiene programs.

It is estimated that out of a rural population of 18 million in Afghanistan, approximately 14 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. Waterborne diseases are still the leading cause of death in Afghanistan.


More than 768 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and about 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation. You can help. Contact your member of Congress and urge them to support the Water for the World Act.

Drilling a deep well can provide up to 2,800 gallons of clean water a day to benefit as many as 300 people. In addition, a deep well can cut a community’s child death rate by as much as half. Donate a share of a deep well today!

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