Even a short wait for the loo can feel like an eternity. For the women of Sangtu Miana in Afghanistan, the wait could last a very long time.
Sangtu Miana is in the middle of the mountainous highlands, hundreds of miles from the nearest city. The village consists of 14 families crammed into traditional mud houses, with no water or electricity.
It’s a rugged, desolate place, but it’s also beautiful and peaceful.
When members of Tearfund’s partner paid a visit to the village, they noticed there weren’t even any toilets. It was far from ideal and for the women of Sangtu Miana, doubly so.
‘All of the houses are right next to each other,’ explains Arbab Shir, who lives with his family in the village. ‘There’s been no place for them to use the toilet. The women were forced to wait until it was dark to relieve themselves, so that no one could see them.’
It meant that the women of Sangtu Miana needed to exercise a serious feat of endurance.
However this was only one aspect of the problem they faced from the lack of latrines. ‘Everywhere was dirty,’ says Afshin, who lives in Sangtu Miana with his family.
Open defecation is linked to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. And when water sources become polluted by human waste, they spread even more quickly. Poor sanitation can also cause intestinal worms and malnutrition, a particular problem for children in the village.
Tearfund’s partner organisation teamed up with the villagers to address these issues. First, villagers joined in with a ‘water, sanitation and health’ (or WASH) course.
Through the training, villagers learnt that latrines aren’t the single ‘magic bullet’ for safer, healthier communities. They learned the basics of disease prevention, from how and when to wash your hands, to how to prevent the spread of disease.
‘Now there isn’t so much disease, and we have a private place.'
The ‘go’ team
Then, in the summer, villagers took it in turns to build a sanitary latrine for each of the 14 families.
‘The community development team also helped us to build a hand pump well in our village,’ says Afshin. ‘Now we have safe water’.
The days of ‘holding it all in’ for hours at a time are gone forever. Today in the village, women are able to use the latrines at any time of day, and in comfort and privacy.
‘Now our village is cleaner, there isn’t so much disease,’ says another villager. ‘We have a private place to relieve ourselves.’
- Praise God for the work of Tearfund’s partner, as they work in the wildest, most inaccessible regions of Afghanistan.
- Thank God for all those in Afghanistan who have been transformed by one or more simple pit latrines.
- Pray that the simple messages about basic hygiene and sanitation can be spread far and wide throughout the country, saving thousands from serious illness.