Afghanistan launches the International Year of
By Roshan Khadivi
Nations Children's Fund
March 20, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan, 20 March 2008 – Afghanistan has
launched the International Year of Sanitation to
advance cooperation among policymakers, humanitarian
partners and communities on improving sanitation and
increasing access to safe water around the country.
UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine
Mbengue helped launch the campaign, focusing on the
impact of sanitation on education.
'We at UNICEF believe improvement in school water,
sanitation and hygiene education not only promotes a
healthy physical and learning environment,' said Ms.
Mbengue. 'It also increases girls' enrolment and
creates links between schools and communities,
resulting in support for children's rights.'
Healthier schools and communities
Since 2004, the Healthy School Initiative (HIS),
organized jointly by UN agencies and the Government of
Afghanistan, has been implemented in 500 schools
across 10 provinces.
The initiative, which is being expanded throughout
the country, aims to provide children with quality
education in a healthy environment – including access
to safe water and separate latrines for girls and
boys. HIS also conducts de-worming campaigns for
schoolchildren and offers hygiene education for
teachers and students.
Beyond school sanitation and hygiene, UNICEF and
its partners in Afghanistan have constructed more than
11,000 wells and 59 pipe schemes for water networks,
as well as building or rehabilitating over 1,700
reservoirs that serve a total of some 3.8 million
people. And last year, UNICEF supported the
construction of more than 23,000 latrines either in
houses or in schools, benefiting 200,000 people – most
of them children.
'But still, with the current rate of progress, we
will not reach our MDG (Millennium Development Goal)
target on sanitation, and we need to do more to reach
every community,' said Ms. Mbengue.
Differing urban and rural needs
The target set forth by the Government of
Afghanistan is to halve, by 2020, the proportion of
people without sustainable access to safe drinking
water and sanitation.
It is estimated that only 23 per cent of households
in Afghanistan have access to safe water – with 43 per
cent having access in urban centres and 18 per cent in
Sanitation needs differ depending upon location. In
rural areas, the focus is on hygiene education and
improved latrines. In cities, there is more of a need
for functioning sewage systems.
Key messages on hygiene
The rural water and sanitation programme of the
Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development,
together with the country's ongoing water-supply and
sanitation projects, aim to achieve Afghanistan's
'We hope that the UN declaration of the year 2008
as the International Year of Sanitation will bring
more collaboration between the UN agencies, Afghan
institutions and NGOs, and mobilize resources to
assist our compatriots in the development of rural
areas and elimination of this problem,' President
Hamid Karzai said in a message he sent for last week's
To celebrate World Water Day today, UNICEF is
distributing an informational booklet that includes
key messages on hygiene and sanitation in local
languages throughout the country. Meanwhile, one
village in each province has been selected to showcase
how a community can participate in ensuring that all
its families adopt key sanitation and hygiene