Children in Afghanistan face enormous health challenges. Chronic illness keeps them out of school and interferes with their ability to concentrate and learn while in class. Much of this disease burden is water-related and directly linked to inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene. The health risk is high, due to food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoan diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever. With 44% of the population below fourteen years age, some of the greatest gains in the population's overall health can be made for the youth of the country.

Most schools do not have access to sufficient quantities of safe drinking water or to toilet facilities. If a school does not provide adequate drinking water, children must carry it from home in small plastic jugs or face the other option, which is to not drink any water during the day. The lack of private and secure latrines is a serious problem for girls in school and is a leading cause of female student absenteeism and dropouts. Even where latrines are available, students often have nowhere to wash their hands, which exposes the entire student population to health risks through transmission of disease.

Hand washing is among the most essential and effective steps to prevent the spread of harmful diseases. The "WASH in Schools" program continues to provide safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation facilities and hand-washing stations. Our staff teaches school children and their teachers about hygiene and disease transmission. Behaviors are changing with the focus on hand washing, safe water storage and latrine use and maintenance.

The overall teaching environment has been improved by this program. When children are healthy, they are in class and attentive. Better health and education allows children to begin to break out of the poverty cycle, bringing their families, both present and future, along with them. Communities benefit as well.

Learning Through Puppets

Our puppetry program creates a fun learning environment to promote the fundamentals of WASH to school children, ages seven to nine. The main topics that are being presented during the puppet show are:

  1. Hand washing: proper hand washing methods with soap.
  2. Diarrhea: explaining what causes diarrhea and the ways to prevent and to cure diarrhea.
  3. Using safe water: the importance of drinking clean water, explaining how a bio sand filter works and motivating students to drink water from the filters that JDA provides to the school.

New drinking water and hand washing stations established at schools after puppetry program.

Washing hands at the hand washing station.

The Sawyer Absolute PointONE filters are being introduced into the schools and communities by JDA. These hollow fiber membrane filters are small, portable, easy-to-use, reliable, inexpensive, and can last a decade without needing to be replaced. Sawyer filters are certified for ABSOLUTE microns making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella typhi (which cause Cholera and Typhoid) to pass through.

JDA equips, trains and mobilizes a team of Afghan men and women for the implementation of this puppetry program. It is continually evaluated by our staff through follow up visits and interviews and by observing the hygiene practices of students. We modify and adjust our program to provide the most effective learning experience possible. We want results that effectively change the way students think and behave towards sanitation and hygiene.

All of the students are given a gift bag after the puppet show. It typically contains a tooth brush, tooth paste, soap, towel and a coloring book. The coloring book has been designed using pictures of the puppets reinforcing WASH message given in the puppet show.

Puppet Show for Farida Balkhi School (April 11, 2016)