Κεντρικός δρόμος στην Καμπούλ. Προσωπική φωτογραφία 2004 (Θ.Ρόζενμεργκ-Η.Βαρσαμή)
ilets cause deaths, misery
5 March 2008 (IRIN) - Saliha still mourns the death of her
three-year-old daughter, Halima, who died due to severe diarrhoea at a
hospital in Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan, on 11 January.
child had drunk contaminated water which Saliha's family collects from
a nearby river and uses for all purposes, including drinking, cooking
About 200 metres away from where households in
Spinkay village, Asmar District, collect water, is a mosque built
across the river where dozens of men gather for prayer five times a
day. Men who come to the mosque often perform their ablutions (washing
their hands, arms, face, head and feet) with river water. Some even
urinate and/or defecate near the riverbanks, and refresh afterwards
with the river water.
It is not always a surprise for locals
to see human faeces, sputum and even animal dung floating in the
running water. There is a consensus among some residents in Spinkay
village, and indeed many other rural communities across Afghanistan,
that "flowing water" is always clean, unless the colour, smell and
taste is changed.
However, not only was Saliha's daughter
killed by the "flowing" river water but many other children also suffer
various water-borne diseases, according to medical experts in Asadabad,
provincial capital of Kunar Province.
Photo: Akmal Dawi/IRIN |
|In the State of the World's Toilets 2007 report Afghanistan was ranked the worst place in the world in terms of sanitation|
Preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and pneumonia kill about 600 under-five Afghan children every day, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
25 percent of under-five children in Afghanistan are affected annually
by diseases originating from poor and/or bad sanitation.
World's worst toilets
According to the State of the World's Toilets 2007 report,
about 92 percent of Afghanistan's estimated 26.6 million population do
not have access to proper sanitation. This has placed the country at
the top of the list of "the worst places in the world for sanitation".
UNICEF statistics show that 34 percent of Afghans (urban 49 percent, rural 29 percent) are using adequate sanitation facilities.
also highlight the problem: "The sanitation status of Afghanistan,
where 60 percent of the population lives in unplanned shantytowns and
where there are growing inequalities in cities in terms of sanitation,
is not satisfactory," Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of New Delhi-based Sulabh International, a sanitation and social services organisation, told IRIN.
Open defecation is prevalent, causing social, health, environmental and development problems.
the past six years the government of Afghanistan and the international
aid community has spent a lot of development money on projects that
have improved access to drinking water, while sanitation issues have
received little or no funding, according to the Ministry of Rural
Rehabilitation and Development.
As poor sanitation hurts
communities throughout the country, killing thousands of children,
there are hopes that the issue of sanitation will be brought into the
wants to pay greater attention to sanitation and the government has
also increasingly realised the importance of sanitation," said Nadarjah
Moorthy, head of the water and environmental sanitation unit with
UNICEF in Kabul.
Poor waste management
in Kabul Municipality estimate that the over three million people
living there produce at least 1,500 cubic metres of solid waste every
day. However, due to lack of resources and a limited capacity, the
municipality does not collect more than half of the waste from open
locations in and around Kabul city.
"We collect 700-800 cubic
metres of solid waste in Kabul city on a daily basis, except Fridays,"
said Payenda Mohammad, an official at the department of waste
management in the municipality.
Some of the remaining solid
waste is either consumed by grazing animals in some parts of the city
and/or collected by destitute children.
"When it rains a lot of
waste mixes with rainwater and often reaches drinking-water sources,
which causes different diseases," Nasrullah Habibi, a specialist on
sanitation with the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in
Kabul, told IRIN.
The traditional dry vault toilet system
– a specially-shaped dry vault that separately collects solid and
liquid waste and which is commonly used in Afghanistan - is also
considered a major health and sanitation problem.
International Year of Sanitation 2008
In September 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals
that challenged the global community to reduce poverty and increase the
health and well-being of all peoples. In September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development
in Johannesburg reaffirmed these goals and added access to basic
sanitation as a centerpiece of the poverty eradication commitments. The
target to halve the proportion of people without access to basic
sanitation by 2105 was defined in the Johannesburg Plan of Action (JPOI).
significant efforts by governments, progress on sanitation targets has
been slow and uneven. Recognising the impact of sanitation on public
health, poverty reduction, economic and social development, and the
environment, the General Assembly decided to declare 2008 the
International Year of Sanitation (GA resolution 61/192 of 20 December 2006).
The General Assembly encouraged member States as well as the United
Nations system, to take advantage of the International Year to increase
awareness of the importance of sanitation to promote action at all
tanks and sewerage (whereby solid and liquid waste is collected near
the home for disposal elsewhere) are two other widely used toilet
systems, particularly in urban areas, both of which are not "safe" or
"eco-friendly", according to Pathak of Sulabh International.
has constructed five public toilets in Kabul city "with biogas
digesters for recycling human waste into biogas, which can be used for
lighting and electricity generation".
two-pit-pour-flush toilet system is an appropriate and affordable
solution to the crisis of dry vault toilets in Afghanistan," said
Habibi of UN-HABITAT.
Boosting public awareness
The UN General Assembly has named 2008 the Year of Sanitation and has asked member states to improve their citizens' access to adequate sanitation.
in partnership with government bodies, plans to boost public awareness
on personal hygiene and sanitation and save thousands of lives. "We
will nominate 'model villages' to encourage communities to improve
sanitation," said Nadarjah Moorthy, UNICEF's sanitation expert in
Kabul. "It requires government, donors and communities' support," he
the widespread lack of a proper toilet system, experts such as Moorthy
are concerned about very poor personal and family hygiene practices
"Hygiene practices need to change," said
Moorthy. Improving sanitation and hygiene practices often requires
behavioural change and takes a long time, he added.
compelling reason for parents to improve their hygiene practices and
sanitation is the very safety and well-being of their children: "I
would have protected my daughter from all unclean things and would
never have given her the river water, if I had known that that would
kill her," said Saliha, the bereaved mother of Halima.
Photo: Akmal Dawi/IRIN |
|It is not always a surprise for locals to see human faeces, sputum and even animal dung floating in the running water|