The biggest

Zainnuddin's story

Living in a remote village nestled in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, doting father Zainnuddin has been working hard to build a good life for his family. “My name is Zainnuddin, and seven people are in my family: I have three sons and two daughters.”
“My grandparents emigrated to Pakistan a long time ago,” Zainnuddin told us. He therefore grew up in Pakistan, and it was the only home he’d ever known - that was until a decade ago, when he moved his family back to the north of Afghanistan to start anew. He’d heard of the economic growth and boost in living conditions that occurred in Afghanistan in the 2010s, and like many other Afghans, moved back to his family’s old village in the hope that he could build a better life. “It’s been about ten years since we returned to Afghanistan.”

Things had been going well for the family until a couple of years ago, when the withdrawal of international troops, recurring droughts and collapse of the banking system precipitated a dire humanitarian crisis across the country, causing unemployment, food insecurity and household debt to skyrocket. This meant that Zaunuddin’s daily wage from labouring work, on which the family relied for their daily income, suddenly dried up. Most of the families in the village were left in similar situations, and in increasingly challenging circumstances.

At the beginning of 2023, Afghanaid met with the Community Development Council in Zainnuddin’s village to understand the assistance that was most needed by community members. As well as outlining that families were struggling with a lack of income, the council also raised that they had never had access to clean water.

We face lots of challenges in this village. But providing clean drinking water was by far our biggest challenge. Because the village is extremely remote, people were having to travel over 4km on treacherous roads to find safe water, which only became more challenging in the winter months.

Zainnuddin’s wife, Zulikha, recently gave birth to their youngest son, and she expressed how challenging gathering water was whilst she was pregnant.

“This past year, collecting the water was very difficult because the cold weather meant everywhere was frozen and everyone was slipping. I slipped so many times. It was too difficult.”

In order to avoid this dangerous journey, many families ended up relying on rain and flood water that ran into rivers in the village. “We used to just have a hole that collected the flood water, and when it looked clear, we used it as our drinking water.”

But, as Zainnuddin explained, the water was not safe for drinking. “Because of this dirty water, we all got kidney stones. Also, two of my children fell into the river while they were collecting flood water.”

One project, multiple solutions

Recognising that this village had a dire need for both safe water and employment opportunities, Afghanaid created a project aimed at tackling both issues.

By employing Zainnuddin and over 600 other villagers on a cash for work scheme, we have been providing a crucial daily wage to families in exchange for their support in building a large-scale water supply network, which will bring water points to over 53 homes in the area.

“Firstly, Afghanaid worked with us to make a deep well, then we built a tanker and connected it with a pipeline which works with solar power. Water goes from the well to the tanker. Next, we are connecting a pipe to every street and house. And this pipeline will go all over the village.”

“It also provides us with a job opportunity - so many of us are working with Afghanaid right now and so got a job through this. We have an attendance sheet and we receive 400 afghanis salary per day and this helps to solve our primary problems.”

Over the past two years alone, Afghanaid has supported over 45,000 households with these cash for work initiatives. For many families, this employment has been a lifeline, ensuring that they can meet their urgent needs and get back on their feet despite the ongoing crisis.

“We’re doing a great job. We are so happy and thankful.” Zainnuddin added.

“When this project is finished, all people, both adults and children will support and keep the new infrastructure safe.”
Villagers enjoying the new water point.
This is an extremely important part of the sustainability and success of this work: by supporting local people to take control over the development of their communities, it ensures that they take ownership of infrastructure, resources, and community forums long after we have left. This well-tested community-led model relies on the logic that communities know best: they know the assistance that is needed, who needs assistance, and how best assistance can benefit entire communities for many years to come.

When asked what’s next for the community, Zainnuddin expressed that the community would like to build a school for their children to be educated, as he knows that this would be the key for a better quality of life for his children. “When we were in Pakistan, we saw everyone, even the girls who are our relatives, had a high level of education. But here, nobody is educated, both girls and boys.”

When this project is finished, all people, both adults and children will support and keep the new infrastructure safe.

This year alone, we’ve worked with over 84 communities just like Zainnuddin to improve their access to clean, safe water and sanitation facilities. Watch our 40th anniversary film to hear from Abdul Latif, another man who was able to earn a daily wage whilst bringing clean water to his village.