Afghanistan: “Happy till the end of our lives”
07 March 2018
In the remote villages of Afghanistan’s Central Highlands, many families still spend hours every day collecting water. In 2017, we met a family whose trips to collect river water were not only long, they were dangerous.
“Where do we start?” said Niaz, 51, father of nine children. “There are so many stories about how difficult it is to fetch water. A lot goes wrong, a lot of people get hurt.”
One year, Niaz fell and broke his leg while fetching the water. His wife Wahida, 48, had to take over, but she was pregnant at the time.
“I brought a clay pot and went very slowly to the river,” she began. “I had to walk for an hour to get there. It was so incredibly cold with a lot of snow and ice. When I arrived at the river, it was completely frozen and there was nothing to break the ice to take the water. Finally I found a stone, smashed through the ice, and gathered enough water to fill the clay pot. I was very tired.
“When I was walking back, I fell down and the cold water poured completely over my body. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I shouted but no one heard me. I was pregnant and I was so cold. I reached for a stick and that helped me to get up. Finally I was able to walk home, but it was very dangerous. I got pneumonia and for 20 days I was very ill. I could not work and my husband was ill as well. Our children needed to fetch the water for us.” When we went to the hospital, I said to my husband, ‘This is not life. I can’t live like this anymore.’
We heard story after story like this-injuries caused from the journey to get water, and illnesses caused from drinking the untreated river water. Some families in the village had moved away because water was so difficult to access. “We don’t have the money to move away, and our children are in school here,” said Niaz.
In 2017, Medair provided the village with a safe and easily accessible source of water. It has transformed their lives. We also provided a community latrine and trained families to grow vegetable gardens to help nourish their children.“The biggest problem we had is solved,” said Niaz. “Now we have safe water right next to us. We also planted 10 different vegetables close to our house; we have enough food now and we have enough water. We will be happy till the end of our lives, since we now have water.”
“When our parents were ill, we went ourselves [to fetch water] with a small pitcher. We fell down a lot of times and could only bring a very small amount. One day I went with my sister for water, and we fell into the snow and disappeared up to our chests. If we had fallen deeper, no one would have found us. We were very afraid. But our uncle heard us yelling. We lost all our water, but our uncle rescued us from the snow. There are also dogs and wolves in the winter. That is very scary. They could eat us. So we were very afraid when we got stuck in the snow. I’m so happy now—I can fetch water during the day!” - Mohammed, 7
“I broke my leg when I fetched water. I had to go to the hospital. Now I can get water myself easily. It is right behind our house.” – Nadira, Mohammed’s younger sister
Niaz and Wahida and three of their children welcome our team during their visit.
In Afghanistan, Medair provides vulnerable families with access to safe drinking water, latrines, services to treat malnutrition, and training in food security and hygiene. With your support, we can make a life-changing difference in some of the world’s most neglected communities. Please give today or give monthly.
Medair's work in Afghanistan is supported by Swiss Solidarity, Global Affairs Canada, Canton of Zurich, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Programme, and the generous support of private donors.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.