Women say bath houses are unclean
According to the Kabul municipality, there are 266 bath houses, 85 of which are women only. Both male and female bath houses host about 200 customers a day.
But the bath houses can be very warm, damp and suffocating, an environment doctors say is perfect for the spread of germs. Skin diseases are also easily passed around as bathers share towels and other wash cloths.
Belqis, 31, a resident of Qal-i-Fatullah, who was at the Taimani bath house with her four children, said they had nowhere else to wash.
“We don’t want to wash here, but we don’t have a warm bathroom at home. Even though the bath house is not cleaned properly, we don’t have an alternative.”
She said there are empty shampoo packets, soap cartons, razor blades and hair dye tubes in the bath yard which also smells bad.
She said they go to the bath house every 10 days.
Nargis, a resident of Kart-e-Parwan, was with her five children at the Mir Ahmad bath house. “I don’t come to the bath house in the summer, but in the winter I do because I don’t have a warm bathroom at home. On Fridays, the water is cold and they charge 35 afghanis per person. The cleaning and the prices are not monitored here.”
According to Nargis, there are two large barrels of hot water which everyone scoops water from.
“Anyone who bends over to scoop up some water, drips water from their face and hair back into the barrel,” she said.
Bibi Gul, who was leaving a bath house in Kart-e-Parwan, said she lived on the side of a mountain in the area. “I pay 1,500 afghanis a month for a single room which lacks a bathroom. I have made a small room in the yard with wood and material and I use that to bathe in the summer. But now the weather is cold, and if take a bath out there I will get sick.”
A number of doctors say that viruses and disease can spread in places where there is poor hygiene.
Dr. Mahmood Gul Kohdamani, a lecturer in medicine at Kabul University and head of the Maiwand hospital, said a number of skin diseases are caused by unclean environments.
“Unfortunately, most of the patients who contract skin diseases, like herpes, get them from bath houses where hygiene is not observed.”
According to Kohdamani, most of the workers at the bathhouse scrub clients with the same wash cloth, which can carry bacteria and germs.
“If you go to a bath house, you should never use the company’s towel, bathrobe or wash mitt and never sit directly on the floor. If you want to sit, use a bath seat.”
He said, at the end of each day the bath house should be washed with powder and disinfectant.
Deen Mohammad, head of the market management department at Kabul municipality, said his department makes regular checks on bath houses in the capital.
“Our personnel are supervising the bath houses every day to make sure they use firewood to heat the water, do not use shared bathrobes or wash mitts, that the floor is marble and the water clean and warm.”
Dr. Sultan Mahmood Dawraan, an environment hygiene officer in the Ministry of Public Health, said his department tests the water of each bath house every six months.
Employees at the bath houses are also tested every six months to ensure they are not infected with contagious diseases such as hepatitis or AIDS.
He said only 40 percent of the bath houses in Kabul met the ministry’s requirements but that it was the municipality’s responsibility to either fine or shut down those that break the rules.
Fawzia, the daughter of a bath house owner in Kart-e-Parwan, said no one from the municipality or the health ministry had visited their bath house.
She said they had taken their own initiative to pave the floor with marble, and that they washed down the bath house every day with hot water and disinfected it every week.
She admitted that on some Fridays the water was cold because of the large number of clients.
Khala Qamar, who works in a bath house for women in Taimani, said they have been running the bath house for 40 years. She complained that customers threw shampoo packets and soap boxes on the floor, which caused a mess.
The bath house was open every day from 4am until 5pm with between 200 to 250 clients a day, she said.
Qamar acknowledged that the 30 afghanis entry fee was steep, but said the price of firewood had increased recently.
She also said that they had not yet had a visit from the Ministry of Public Health, but that a woman from the municipality had come four months ago. “She took a bath, but didn’t pay the fee. After that she talked with our male supervisors, I guess she took a bribe as well.”
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