UNICEF provides potable water to Takhar residents amid rise in cholera cases

By Muhammad Qasem

Residents of Badguzar village in Ishkamish district, Takhar province, wait in line for drinking water that is provided by the UNICEF in the area on August 26. [Takhar Directorate of Rural Rehabilitation and Development]

Residents of Badguzar village in Ishkamish district, Takhar province, wait in line for drinking water that is provided by the UNICEF in the area on August 26. [Takhar Directorate of Rural Rehabilitation and Development]

KUNDUZ -- Amid an outbreak of cholera in Takhar province, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is providing potable water to some 650 households in Ishkamish district.

"Hundreds of [residents] have been infected with cholera after the outbreak took the life of a 10-year-old in Badguzar village in ... Ishkamish district," said Samlullah Samimi, spokesperson for the Takhar Directorate of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.

"Local residents have called on UNICEF to intervene and contain the spread of the disease."

A team comprised of representatives from the directorate and UNICEF visited the district in late August to assess the situation, Samimi said. They determined the cholera outbreak stemmed from consumption of contaminated water.

"UNICEF pledged to distribute clean drinking water by tankers to some 650 households in the affected areas of Ishkamish district so that the public will avoid drinking water from the rivers," he said.

The project to provide potable water to residents was launched on August 26 in Badguzar village and will distribute 700 litres of drinking water for free to every household for two months.

"UNICEF will soon start distributing clean drinking water to other [Takhar] districts, including Bangi, so that every household will have access to clean drinking water," said Samimi.

Precautionary measures

As many as 1,500 children under the age of eight have contracted cholera, an extremely virulent disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, in the past month, health officials in Takhar province said.

Infected children have been admitted to the hospital from a number of the province's districts, most of whom were discharged shortly after receiving treatment, said Hafizullah Atifi, director of the Takhar hospital's paediatric ward.

"Our information indicates that most individuals, especially children, have contracted cholera or diarrhoea after drinking contaminated water and ignoring physicians' recommendations," he said. "Hot weather also contributes to the spread of the diseases."

"We urge all families to boil water first and let it cool down before they drink it if they do not have access to clean drinking water," he added.

The project, estimated to cost 470,000 AFN ($5,328), is implemented in co-ordination with the provincial Rural Rehabilitation and Development Directorate's four development councils, as well as Citizens Organisation for Advocacy and Resilience, a non-profit organisation based in Kabul, UNICEF officials said.

The source of potable water provided to residents is Pancheri Afghania village, about 22km from Badguzar village, Dr. Salim Samim, director of UNICEF's health section in Takhar province, said.

UNICEF has also distributed chlorine to residents so they can disinfect contaminated water, he said.

"We are hoping to cover other areas in the future where there is a lack of clean drinking water by sending more tankers to distribute water and help alleviate the public's problems," he added.

Preventing the outbreak of infectious diseases

Residents of Ishkamish district welcomed UNICEF's intervention and requested that deep wells be dug in their district as a long-term solution.

"Since there is no well water in our district, most [residents] use water from rivers, streams or canals for drinking," said Mahram Ali, 58, an Ishkamish resident.

"Distributing water by tankers will solve local problems in the short term," he said. "However, unless deep wells are dug or water supply networks are established, the public will continue to suffer."

UNICEF's intervention to distribute drinking water is a very good step, but such problems must be addressed permanently, said Takhar resident Mohammad Omar Rafiee.

"Relief organisations have implemented many water supply projects in various areas of Takhar province over the past several years, which has led to the public's improved access to clean drinking water," he said.

"If relief organisations focus on building water supply networks and digging deep or shallow wells in areas where the public facing a shortage of clean drinking water, that would be the best approach to address the issue of water scarcity in the longer term," Rafiee said.

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It is a great misfortune for the people of the country who do not have access to clean drinking water even in the 21st century that an organization comes and arranges drinking water for them. I thank UNICEF and other aid organizations. In my opinion, the problem is worse than this. The country's water supply system has been severely damaged due to floods and heavy rains.


It's good that this number of the compatriots are provided with clean drinking water. In the meantime, people shouldn't always look for support from the NGOs. They should get up and start working for themselves. They can maintain hygiene by taking minimal steps. For instance, many diseases will disappear if people boil their drinking water before drinking. Furthermore, such diseases will be virtually prevented if they build their latrines far from the water wells. Additionally, it will help them a lot if they put vegetables in potassium before consuming them or put them in salt for a few minutes. People should take care of their health.


It is now a great misfortune for the people of a country that does not have access to clean drinking water even in the 21st century, and an [welfare] organization comes and arranges drinking water for them. It is big trouble for the people of this region that in the last 20 or 22 years, they were not provided at least clean drinking water. This is a matter of shame for the provincial level officials, then at the level of the country, and then for those who have been present for 20 years but did not provide clean water to the people. There is also a rumor on the international stage that we have done this and that to Afghanistan and Afghans. In contrast, the people of many regions do not have the fundamental possibilities of life.


You behave in a hateful manner, and your this hateful behavior, we have been pushed into the pit. A lot of things have been done in the last 20 years that you have seen and are still seeing unless you close your eyes and ignore them. Clean drinking water has been provided to the villagers in every province, every district, and every village. However, because severe floods have recently occurred in many provinces of Afghanistan, wells and ditches have been filled with mud. After these floods, people have been infected with cholera disease not only in Takhar but in many provinces of Afghanistan. In some areas, hundreds of people have died due to this disease, most of whom are under treatment. So, in my opinion, what happened in the past is what happened. Now the new rulers must get to work and work continuously without wasting time. Also, they have to assure the nation that they are with them and invite people to work.


America is doing another historic betrayal against the Afghan nation. They divide their currency stock into two and then present it for consumption. Every citizen of this country and the international organizations should react to this decision. The caretaker government is also to blame for this situation, but it does not justify this action of America.


Thanks to UNICEF and other aid agencies. In my opinion, the problem is worse than that. Floods and heavy rains have severely damaged the water supply system in the country. This situation has caused the spreading of viral diseases in the country and has caused severe troubles for the people. In the meantime, it has been said that a disease similar to cholera has spread in Arghandab district of Zabul province, which has infected many people. I ask all the national and international organizations through Salaam Times' website to support people by adapting projects and sending health teams to vulnerable provinces. Thanks