Improving Water, Sanitation, and Health: Women Transform Toghak, Afghanistan

Improving Water, Sanitation, and Health: Women Transform Toghak, Afghanistan

A new hand-washing station in Toghak, Afghanistan. {Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.}Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.

In the small Afghan village of Toghak, where open defecation affected the sanitation and health of the community, two women took the initiative to mobilize themselves and others into transforming Toghak.

Ms. Fatima and Ms. Rukhsar attended a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) workshop in the neighboring village of Gheyas Said Abd and learned life-saving lessons they wanted to take back to their village. They learned that flies tend to breed in bacteria infested places, particularly human feces, and then transport the fecal matter to food meant for human consumption.

Knowing that this knowledge would motivate their community to improve their sanitation efforts, the women did not waste any time.

When the women returned from the workshop, they recruited twenty women from Toghak willing to help them improve the latrines. They also requested the assistance of CLTS facilitators to come to Toghak and map the high frequency defecation areas in order to identify the best locations for new latrines.

Within a week the women made improvements to 20 latrines. Within three months 50 new latrines were built.

A new latrine in Toghak, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH)

“When I improved the old latrine and cleaned my house, my husband saw this clean house environment and he appreciated me and encouraged me to keep up this good work. He also collected the village males to support their wives in keeping up with this good work for Toghak village done by the ladies,” Ms. Fatima explained.

Ms. Fatima has become a leader in her community. She supported three families with lesser means to construct their latrines giving them wood and other materials to build. Additionally, she distributed soap to ten lower income families so that they can properly wash their hand during critical times.

Ms. Fatima also regularly monitors the village latrines twice a week. Her diligence stems from the results that having an open defecation-free zone has produced. “Previously, we spent more money for our children’s treatments because diarrhea [cases were] high. Also, we did not know how to save our drinking water --- that we could boil it and then later use it for drinking. We’ve saved money and time because the clinic is too far from us.”

On March 29, 2011 an external verification team consisting of the district governor and his team along with Mullahs, the provincial WASH coordinator and CLTS committee members came to inspect and verify Toghak as an open defecation-free (ODF) village.

On June 4, 2011 the village was officially certified and given the Open Defecation Free certificate by the SWSS team.

Dr. Abdul Shakoor Hatifie is director, sustainable health outcomes, of USAID's Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Afghanistan (SWSS) project.

The USAID-funded Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Afghanistan (SWSS) project increases access to potable water and sanitation services in Afghan communities and decreases the prevalence of water borne diseases through household hygiene interventions. Led by the Association for Rural Development, in partnership with Management Sciences for Health, SWSS has led nearly 400 communities in Afghanistan to become Open Defecation Free. The MSH components of the project have succeeded under the astute leadership of Dr. Abdul Hatifie, the team leader for Sustainable Health Outcomes, and Dr. Logarwal, the BCC Material and Media Specialist. Together they have led the successful implementation of innovative approaches in all aspects of the SWSS project. 

To learn more about SWSS’s accomplishments, please see the cover article in this month’s USAID Global Waters magazine.