Access to safe and clean water is something many people take for granted.
The Najmul-Qura CHC health centre, located in the densely populated Behsood district of Nangarhar province, can now provide its staff and patients with drinking water following a community health intervention by UNDP through the Integrity Watch Afghanistan.
With a large number of internally displaced people and settlers, Behsood is one of the most highly populated districts in Nangarhar; its popularity is based on proximity to Jalalabad city. Behsood’s citizens have expressed dissatisfaction with health services in the area, citing numerous issues including lack of proper medications, unsanitary conditions both inside and outside the clinic building, and no available drinking water.
Integrity Watch informed citizens of their civic rights and mobilized a volunteer to serve as a ‘community monitor’ in the local clinic. The community monitor received two days of intensive training before taking up his role. He immediately identified a number of problems, but most urgently, the clinic’s inability to provide clean drinking water, which left doctors and visitors in desperate need, particularly during the hot summer weather when dehydration can affect patients. Patients had no alternative but to drink unsafe and unclean water which could be very harmful. The volunteer monitor knew this serious health hazard required immediate resolution.
Volunteers from Integrity Watch reacted quickly and began to advocate for a resolution. They shared the problem with the health authorities at the clinic, who promised to solve the problem but no action was taken. Still advocating for the issue, volunteers participated in monthly meetings of health management council Shura and shared a compiled report of problems which included the pressing issue of a lack of drinking water in the clinic. The volunteers emphasised the potential catastrophic consequences to public health and urged members to act.
In response, Shura members carried out local fundraising to purchase a water container. It was incredibly challenging for the volunteers to gather and convince people to extend their financial or in-kind contributions to the local clinic, but it did lead to the provision of clean drinking water for patients, visitors and doctors. Another positive outcome is that Shura members and the community have developed a sense of ownership towards their local clinic and take pride in civic engagement.
A local volunteer said: “We should not underestimate solving small issues. If we solve a small issue today, we are able to solve the larger problems of our clinic tomorrow.”
Members of Shura’s health management council also advocated for further support and collaboration with the local volunteers and encouraged organisational transparency by sharing the clinic monitoring report with the wider community. A significant long-term benefit is the potential elimination or reduction of sickness/disease outbreak among clinic staff, patients and visitors due to the consumption of unsafe drinking water.
This initiative is part of UNDP Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption, Transparency, Integrity and Openness (ACTION) project to increase public trust in, and transparency of, Afghan Security and Justice institutions and is generously funded by Royal Danish Embassy.