Health and happiness through clean water

Health and happiness through clean water | World Vision Blog

A new World Vision deep well brings health and happiness to the children of this village in Afghanistan. (©2013 Narges Ghafary/World Vision)

Unsafe water is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Afghanistan, with more than 40 percent of child deaths caused by diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. Clean water can prevent these illnesses. See how a World Vision deep well is changing life in young mother Maryam's village.


Water is the foundation of life; it plays a vital role in the well-being of families. Nevertheless, in areas of poverty, there is never enough water — especially clean water. Many people spend their entire lives searching to find enough, just to survive.

In places like Robata Parniyan, a village in Afghanistan, people lose large amounts of time gathering water, while many suffer from waterborne diseases and hygiene-related problems because of that water.

“I was sick for four days. I had dysentery and vomiting,” says Maryam, 24. “As our economic condition wasn’t good, I tried to use a home remedy, but it was useless. My husband had to take me to clinic for treatment.”

Maryam’s sickness not only put her own health at risk; it also jeopardized the health of her 4-month-old baby girl. “[When I was sick], I had to feed my baby with powdered milk and sometimes with tea and sugar,” she says, noting how her milk supply decreased due to her own dehydration. “My child cried. The [powdered milk] didn’t satisfy her. I was really sad that because of my sickness, my child’s future was in danger."

At the clinic, the doctor recommended that they stop drinking water from their shallow well because that water was endangering their health.

Maryam, her family, and all the other community members in her village depend on water from such questionable sources.

“We don’t have enough money to dig a deep well,” said Maryam with a look of hopelessness in her eyes.

The shallow wells bring with them a host of problems: The water is salty and, because it is close to the surface and uncovered, often contaminated.

Unclean water is one of the most deadly threats for children in Afghanistan. More than 40 percent of child deaths are due to diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. Young babies are especially at risk as mothers who lack breast milk mix the contaminated water with powdered milk to provide food for their children.

In February 2009, World Vision conducted a baseline survey of all four target districts (Kohsan, Zindanjan, Karukh and Chest-I-Sharif) to assist in the identification and prioritization of problems that exist within the community. The survey revealed that 25 percent of children under 5 years old had diarrhea during the time of the survey, while 45 percent of children said they had suffered from diarrhea at some point during the two weeks prior to the survey.

Although many know that the water is dangerous, they have no alternative. They don’t have enough income to purchase clean water or to buy the fuel necessary to boil the salty water to kill the bacteria.

World Vision is currently implementing a four-year, USAID-funded child survival grant called Better Health for Afghan Mothers and Children, which aims to produce sustainable improvements in maternal, newborn, and child health for nearly 200,000 people in the above four districts of Herat Province.

As part of the program, World Vision has repaired 30 damaged wells in 10 villages of Zindajan and Kohsan districts, and drilled two new 30 meter deep wells in the Robata Pariyan and Rabat Afghan villages.

“Three days ago, we stopped using salty water,” says Maryam with a smile. “Currently for drinking, cooking, and washing, families use the well dug by World Vision. The water is a little bit tasteless for us, because we drank salty water for a long time.”

“Today and yesterday, I went to school on time because I didn’t have to walk a far distance to gather water,” says 12-year-old Ali.

A single well in the center of a village will not solve all of the problems related to a shortage of clean water. There are 60 households in this village. Some families have to walked around 10 kilometers (about six miles) to collect water from this well, a task that will be difficult during the winter. There is still more work to be done.

“World Vision is a great organization that helps poor people and digs wells for them," says villager Nor Bibi. "If the help of such an organization were not in the country, I don’t know what would happen to the people. I hope this organization makes at least two more wells, so all families can enjoy drinking safe water.”

More than 768 million people 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!

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