Upgrading Rural Afghanistan’s Water Supply

Girls pump water in the Kohband district of Afghanistan’s Kapisa province. Photo credit: UNICEF Afghanistan
Girls pump water in the Kohband district of Afghanistan’s Kapisa province. Photo credit: UNICEF Afghanistan

After enduring decades of conflict, more than 200,000 rural Afghans across 17 provinces are making progress toward a healthier and more water-secure future.

Home to roughly three-quarters of the country’s population, rural Afghanistan is intimately familiar with the hardships that decades of armed conflict have inflicted. However, lost among headlines dominated by chronic wartime violence is the fact that many villages also have been quietly suffering due to a lack of basic infrastructure and service provision for water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), which has severely compromised rural public health and slowed the country’s ongoing economic recovery.

As recently as 2015, for example, less than half of rural Afghan households enjoyed access to a dependable safe drinking water supply. As a result, waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea contribute to the deaths of more than 9,000 Afghan children under age 5 every year — a staggering death toll showcasing the continued vulnerability of Afghanistan’s youngest generation. Moreover, only 27 percent of rural households had access to improved sanitation facilities in 2015, further facilitating the spread of disease. Today, Afghanistan remains near the bottom of global rankings for access to improved WASH.

Read the full article in USAID's Global Waters magazine.