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Clean water is a Fundamental Human Right

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized access to clean water as a fundamental human right. In some far-flung areas of Central Asia, however, that right continues to go unrealized, even for children.

Tajikistan’s Bleak Frontier

Even as late as April, the temperature in Kona Kurgan, Tajikistan can plummet well below freezing. Gusts of wind bite at the faces of people as they hurry toward their destinations and snow is thick on the ground. Sometimes residents of this remote outpost are isolated from the rest of the world for as long as 9 months at a time, but this is business as usual for the hearty locals. They have adapted to make the best of the rugged conditions.

Despite the frigid environment outside, some 250 boys and girls are tucked inside their classrooms at Kona Kurgan High School, warm, cozy, and protected from the elements raging outside. Yet, these conditions developed fairly recently.

Tenth-graders at the school were just 13 years old when the school was built by CAI-Tajikistan. They remember what it was like before they had solid walls around them and warm stoves to study by.

“Before, [at the old school], it was very difficult to focus on the teacher,” said Kumushai Mamatumarova. “I like this school very much. It is not cold.”

“Good facilities make it more likely for kids to succeed,” added Principal Temirbhai Bolotov. “The people of Murghab (the neighboring town) are very jealous because it is warm and comfortable here.”

barren environment new well

The landscape in Kona Kugan, Tajikistan is vast, with very little water sources. A new well creates much-needed access to clean water year-round.

Not a Drop to Drink

Although the students had shelter and heat once the school was completed in 2013, the girls and boys of Kona Kurgan still lacked one basic necessity — clean drinking water. The students were either going thirsty or dashing to and from a well on the other side of town.

“[Kona Kurgan] is like a desert,” said CAI-Tajikistan Director Mahbuba Qurbonalieva. “The only way to get water is to dig the ground about 15 meters deep.”

So that is just what CAI-Tajikistan did. Last year a water pump was installed next to the school. ACTED, a French nongovernmental organization committed to providing humanitarian relief to those most in need, donated the pump, while CAI-Tajikistan acted as liaison to the community and dug the well.

The well is an important addition for the community of 1,400. Recently, several families moved into the small town. Being mostly herdsmen, they leave their children at the boarding school while they move with their animals from pasture to pasture. Enrollment at the boarding facility jumped from 4 or 5 children in 2015 to 30 children in 2016. Principal Bolotov says the school has trouble taking care of all the children. They struggle to scrounge together enough food and clean water for their wards. The new pump has helped tremendously with the latter.

clean drinking water

A girl carries buckets of water from a well to use for cooking, cleaning, and drinking.

“The teachers and students say the pump makes their lives easier,” said Mahbuba. “Now the students do not have to go anywhere else to drink water and wash their hands. This is very important, especially in the bad weather.”

Being a student in Kona Kurgan is extremely difficult. The weather is brutal, resources are scarce, and they are often isolated. Yet, slowly but surely, CAI-Tajikistan is changing their lives for the better. Now they have access to one more basic human right — fresh water.


CAI continues to provide fundamental provisions for learning. Without clean water, shelter, and safety, getting a proper education is near impossible. To read more about how CAI is providing shelter for students and access to education, check out Footsteps: Breaking New Ground.

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