Afghanistan’s harsh conditions and rough terrain impede the expansion and maintenance of public infrastructure, including water supply and sanitation systems. Decades of conflict and weak governance have curbed investment in public infrastructure and made enforcing relevant sanitation and hygiene regulations difficult. Cities across the country are growing at rates double the current average in Asia. Afghanistan’s urbanization and shifting demographics are driven by the increasing number of people displaced by fighting in the countryside, refugees who are returning from Pakistan and Iran, and rural residents who are looking for economic opportunities. Afghanistan also has no functioning sewage and wastewater treatment systems, and existing septage management systems are informal. Only 63 percent of Afghans have access to basic drinking water, and only 39 percent have access to basic sanitation.
USAID is assisting Afghanistan in meeting its water-supply and sanitation targets and improving hygiene behaviors, in alignment with the Global Water Strategy and the USAID Agency Specific Plan, through the Potable and Productive Water Project (PPWP), an integrated set of activities to address water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs and related challenges to water-resource management (subject to the availability of funds). Key priorities within the PPWP include improving the sustainability of investments and leveraging WASH activities to drive nutrition gains, enhance resilience, and stimulate employment opportunities. USAID is also supporting the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) within the U.S. Department of the Interior in ensuring the long-term sustainability of drinking water supplies in the Kabul River Basin.
USAID coordinates closely with other donors active in the WASH sector in Afghanistan, including Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In some instances, USAID programs directly through the German Development Bank and UNICEF to leverage resources and avoid duplication of effort.
Overall, these activities are estimated expected to provide more than 700,000 Afghans with sustainable access to basic water supplies, and help more than one million Afghans gain access to basic sanitation by 2021.