A girl died from typhoid the first day the team visited the Afghan village.
Two months later, when they returned, fewer people were getting sick. Typhoid has been stealing lives there for years, but training and practical help from a BMS-supported water and sanitation team has made things better. Teaching people about washing their hands, about building their toilets away from the river, about making sure waste doesn’t contaminate the water their people need to live.
These simple lessons are having huge impacts in villages across rural Afghanistan. Men, women and children whose faces we can’t show you for security reasons can now save their children and themselves from the suffering that disease brings. And it’s happening because you give.
It’s also happening because of the way we do it. BMS doesn’t parachute help in without consultation, deciding what’s best for locals, throwing money around and hoping for the best. We assess needs. We get the people we are trying to help to help themselves.
Twelve households in one village were surveyed before and after they were trained in water, sanitation and hygiene. And the impact of helping with sustainability in mind has been wonderfully encouraging. Before the training, less than half of the families involved said they washed their hands before cooking. After the training, over 90 per cent said they would. And while all those involved in the training now say they wash their hands to keep them clean, fewer than 10 per cent of people did so before.
The training sessions are run for both children and adults, and people’s perceptions are being changed. They are hearing things they have never heard before, and putting them into action.
“It’s preventing disease and the causes of diarrhoea,” says a BMS development worker in the country. And preventing diarrhoea, which kills 1,400 children every day worldwide, is an amazing thing to achieve. It’s something we’ve been able to do in these communities because of your support. Every pound you give makes a difference in a place where it is desperately needed. And it’s because of this need that we try to intervene in holistic, sustainable ways.
Our approach in Afghanistan is two-pronged. While we are training families about water, hygiene and sanitation, we know that all the training in the world can’t stop the spread of disease if people can’t access clean water. That’s why we are also building wells and laying water pipelines, building toilets for families and communities who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.
“One of the things that makes the biggest difference is when we pipe a spring,” says one of our most experienced development workers based in Afghanistan. Usually communities wait for the water to flow down to their village, but this means a lot of water is lost on the way and the water that does reach them has been contaminated by running through fields where animals defecate. “By capping the water at its source and piping it underground so it doesn’t freeze, these villages have more water and better water.”
This is a huge task, and involves a group from the village digging the pipeline from the water source to the village – which can be miles away. A lot of this work is done by hand. However, when the pipeline is finished and the pipe installed, clean water is constantly available in the village, and people who were once collecting dirty water from the river can now wash and drink safely. Graeme Riddell, BMS Team Leader for Mission Personnel, recently visited villages that now have access to clean water thanks to this project.
“Seeing pure, clean water constantly running; seeing a woman washing her clothes under the tap without having to walk for miles and miles; knowing that people are not getting sick anymore as a result of this project – that’s a very touching thing,” says Graeme. “This work actually is life-transforming.”
When you think of Afghanistan, you probably think of war, of the Taliban, of bombs. But hidden between the mountains and the stories and the fear are families who are just trying to live and to create the best lives possible for their children. By giving to BMS, you’re helping us to improve the quality of life for people in these Afghan villages. And you’re helping us to stop these people dying.
You hear this a lot from charities, but those of us who’ve seen the work first-hand can confidently say it and mean it: you are making a difference. Thank you.
There’s still so much to do. If you want to support projects like this, please give today
We urgently need more people to come forward to serve with us in Afghanistan. Check out our vacancies
and please pass them on to anyone you think might be interested.