Khak-e Sefid District, Farah Province, Afghanistan. A water management committee undergoes training at the ICRC offices. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Homayon Homayon.
Conflict, drought and mismanagement are depriving people of water. The ICRC is training communities to operate and maintain their own water pumps and systems, ensuring that they enjoy a reliable supply of clean water.
Crisis and mismanagement hit water supplies
War and climate change are making it increasingly difficult to manage water supplies. To make matters worse, coordination between the various bodies involved in providing water is often ineffective. An increasingly severe water crisis is affecting farming, which in turn endangers food supplies. Vulnerable communities are suffering the most.
Water mismanagement is a major concern for people in rural areas, where conflict often makes it even more difficult to obtain water.
Keeping water flowing in the countryside
We're focusing on making sure people have the basics, and that essential services are running. There are different needs in different places, but one thing they have in common is that there's an ever-closer link with environmental problems.
One of the many things we're doing is to make sure communities have access to the water they need for drinking, cooking and washing. But we know that other uses are important, such as life-sustaining agriculture and forestry.
Kurji, Farah Province, Afghanistan. Technicians repair a handpump. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Homayon Homayon.
We're helping communities to operate, maintain and repair their handpumps, to ensure they have the water they need while making sure they do not use up the water in the ground faster than it can be replaced by rainfall and melting snow.
But improving the water supply is only half the battle. We have to work directly with water users to ensure that the water supply continues to meet their needs. The availability of water changes over time, as does water quality. The demand for water also changes, and water sources must be managed effectively if they are to remain in operation.
When public authorities lack the capacity to manage water supply infrastructure, setting up village-level systems for operating, maintaining and repairing it is the best way of making sure a community will have a reliable supply of clean water long-term.
Lak Lak Khana Village, Koushk-e Rabat Sangi District, Herat Province, Afghanistan. A donkey drinks at the newly-repaired handpump. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hassan Khan.
One example is Kurji, in Farah Province, which has seen an influx of people fleeing conflict. The ICRC has set up hand-pump repair workshops in the village and provided tools, enabling the community to repair 52 wells that had become unusable. These wells are the main source of water for 7,280 people.
305 wells have been repaired in Khak-e Sefid district, one of the most volatile regions in Farah, providing water for 42,700 people. Another 626 wells will be repaired in the near future. Similar projects have taken place in several conflict-affected remote areas of Herat Province and others will soon be starting in Badghis Province.
Water in prisons
Farah Provincial Prison, Farah Province, Afghanistan. The new solar water pumping system. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Esmaily Aziz Ahmad
Lack of water, inadequate sanitation, poor ventilation and overcrowding are giving cause for concern in Afghanistan's prisons. The authorities are often unable to provide essential services or carry out proper maintenance. Chronic power and fuel shortages make it even more difficult for the prison authorities to run their jails properly.
Farah Province is one of the hottest in Afghanistan. Prisons in the Province therefore need stable, reliable, low-maintenance water supply systems in order to prevent outbreaks of disease. At Farah Provincial Prison, the ICRC has met this need by installing a solar pumping system. The system has zero running costs, requires little maintenance and can respond rapidly to changes in demand for water.
Farah Provincial Prison, Farah Province, Afghanistan. Workers sink a borehole for the new water supply system. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Noorzai Abdul Salam.
We are also training prison personnel and detainees to look after the system, so that it will continue to provide clean water for many years to come.