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Safe Water Systems in Afghanistan: Building Local Manufacturing Capacity and Quality Assurance

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Ensuring a consistent supply of safe water solutions that meet international set standards is a signification challenge in Afghanistan. A huge majority of the population estimated at approximately 80% do not have access to safe drinking water or sanitation facilities which results in significant cases of water-borne disease leading to diarrheal episodes especially amongst children. Nearly one-fifth of children under the age of five (5) are estimated to have nearly six (6) diarrheal episodes per year with only six (6) months of the year representing the most at risk period. Diarrhea kills about 44 children out of 1,000, which represents about one-fifth of the under five (5) mortality in Afghanistan.

The target set forth by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is to halve, by the year 2020, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation. It is estimated that only 23% of households in Afghanistan have access to safe water with 43% having access in urban centers and 18% in rural areas.

To support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan, Futures Group International with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been implementing the Communications for Behavior Change: Expanding Access to Health Products through the Private Sector (COMPRI-A) Project since April 2006. COMPRI-A works with a local pharmaceutical manufacturer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and international laboratories to develop the local capacity and required skills set to produce a safe water solution (chlorine-based) that meets international standards for shelf-life and chlorine concentration levels to ensure the effective production of reliable safe water solutions being sold throughout Afghanistan. The COMPRI-A Project has developed a national distribution supply chain that makes available the chlorine solution nationally with special focus on rural communities. This product is promoted and sold through the private sector under the USAID brand name Abpakon Safe Water System.

The COMPRI-A Project working in close conjunction with the local manufacturer of the original chlorine solution identified through random testing of locally produced safe water that the required solution concentrations were not meeting international set standards within the one-year expected shelf-life of the cleaning agent. It was determined that the local manufacturer did not have the required testing and quality control equipment to ascertain the quality of the necessary chemical raw material ingredients and clean water component. Furthermore, it was determined that the level of diagnostic sophistication and the laboratories equipment testing capabilities used by the Ministry of Public Health (APHI Labs) for final market QC testing approval of all pharmaceuticals (including environmental and water treatment products) was not equivalent to the current testing equipment used by the CDC and other internationally-based testing facilities. The overall problem identified was that the local manufacturer needed to acquire testing and quality assurance equipment along with training to ensure that the raw materials put into the production process and final product (chlorine solution) met international standards.

The Project worked with the CDC and US-based equipment manufacturers to ascertain the problem in the production cycle and identified key interventions that the manufacturer needed to take in order to correct the production process that was resulting in the inconsistent quality of safe water solution being produced. Through a grant awarded by the COMPRI-A Project and funded by USAID, in concert with the CDC, local US-based manufacturers and our local pharmaceutical supplier partner, the required types of water purification, chemical testing, and quality assurance equipment was procured and installed at the local manufacturer's facility. This directly resulted in the manufacturer producing safe water solutions consistently meeting international standards supported through random selection of lots of solutions produced and tested/verified by an independent accredited international diagnostic laboratory based in Singapore.

Keywords: Chlorinated Water Treatment Solutions; ISO 9001 Certification; Increasing local Quality Pharmaceutical Standards; Investing in Local Manufacturing; Quality Assurance; Social Marketing

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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