By Air Force Capt. Jean Duggan
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2008 - Provincial reconstruction team medics here introduced a water-sanitation process to village elders July 31 in the Shajoy district of Afghanistan's Zabul province. Members of the Zabul PRT chose Shajoy to test run the project because of its proficient hospital, where the equipment will be placed, officials said.
The process, called hypochlorite generation, uses electricity to convert salt water into a chlorine solution that is added to water drawn from village wells. About a tablespoon of the chlorine solution added to a four-gallon jug of well water is enough to kill all bacteria and parasites in the water.
"Unclean water and dysentery are the biggest issues in Zabul," Dr. Saleh Mohammed, the Shajoy district hospital director, said. "This project will help children under 5 years old, who suffer from malnutrition and diarrhea."
Shajoy is the first district in the Zabul province given the opportunity to make clean drinking water for families.
"This process will destroy the germs in the water, making it safe to drink so your children won't get sick," said Air Force Capt. (Dr.) James Arnold, a family physician for the Zabul PRT, as he spoke to a group of Shajoy elders. "I ask you, respectfully, as the leaders and educated men of this district, to encourage your families and others to continue to use purified water. If you do this, you won't get sick from the water, but more importantly, the children will not get diarrhea and will get the nutrition they need to grow big and strong."
The team will donate a 4-gallon jug for holding well water and a 1-liter bottle to fill with the chlorine solution to each family. One capful from the bottle sanitizes the water in the jug, and families refill the bottle at the hospital each month. The doctor warned villagers that the pure chlorine solution is harmful to children, so it must be kept on high shelves.
The hospital staff puts salt water in a 135-liter tub using well water and 3 kilograms of salt bought from the local market. The generator powers a probe that is placed into the salt water, and after about eight hours, the result is chlorine. The most expensive part of the process is the hypochlorite generator, which costs about $4,000. Shajoy's generator was donated to facilitate the water-sanitation test run.
After the one-time purchase of the hypochlorite generator, clean water can be provided to 300 families, or about 5,000 people, for just $5 per month. If the project is successful, the team will purchase additional generators for Shajoy's 750 families and begin expanding the project in the province.
"This treatment the doctor has given to you is important," said Gulab Shah, the Zabul deputy governor. "Our children get infected from drinking water and eating foods. I hope you use this gift from the PRT the right way."
(Air Force Capt. Jean Duggan serves in the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs Office.)