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AFGHANISTAN: Q&A
(11 March 2008)
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Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the crisis that subsequently unfolded, the continuing humanitarian disaster has been largely forgotten by the international media. Here IR staff from Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Balkh and Kabul offices attempt to bring us up to date with the current situation and how IR Afghanistan (IR Afghanistan) is helping.

What are the main problems facing the people of Afghanistan at the moment?

As is inevitable, a country with 30 years of continuous international and internal conflicts has serious problems in every aspect of life. The main problems can be categorised as;

  1. Insecurity - widespread insurgent activities are a serious threat to the stability of the nation and have a destructive impact on every aspect of people's life.
  2. Lack of education/literacy - due to the continuous targeting of schools, teachers and religious scholars who are often killed, there is a whole generation of uneducated youth who place a severe burden on the economy and social stratum.
  3. Unemployment - illiteracy, lack of jobs and impractical government policies have led to extensive unemployment and this is the main reason that the insurgents can easily absorb youth and so strengthen their activities.
  4. Access to basic utilities - in a country where potable water is severely limited, where more than 1,000 people die from frostbite every winter and where clinics are a rarity, problems are inevitable. In this age of modernity, Afghanistan lacks all the basic necessities which are crucial for life, like access to potable water, health, education and employment.
  5. Political and inter-communal differences - Afghanistan is too immature for a system of democracy and yet instead of working on the main priorities like education and security, many here have focused on bringing democracy to Afghanistan, attempting to show the world that they can achieve this goal. This has just added to the already fragile social system of the country.

Who is worst affected by these problems?

The worst affected are those who are not landowners, those who have no tribal affiliation with any political group, the poor, the uneducated who do not have the skills to make a living, and low-level government workers.

How is IR helping?

IR is trying to reach all the above mentioned categories of people. We always aim for our projects to benefit as many from these categories as possible.

What are the main challenges IR faces in carrying out these projects?

There are numerous challenges IR faces but the main are as follows; insecurity, outdated government policies and the unnecessary interruption of local warlords and politicians.

What makes IR’s projects in Afghanistan different from those of other NGO’s operating in the country?

The following are some of the positive differences between IRA and other NGO's projects;

  1. Our religious programmes (Ramadhan, Qurbani and Orphan Sponsorships).
  2. Our dedicated and largely Muslim staff
  3. Unlimited access to rural areas due to good social mobilisation and coordination with local communities
  4. There has been a lot of media coverage of people involved in the opium trade. How much of an issue is this?

This is a major issue in the media because one third of the world’s heroin is produced in this country. One of the major concerns of the Afghan government and the world is to tackle this issue.

Is IRA doing anything to tackle this problem?

Yes, we have a clinic for addicts in Shortepa of Mazar-I-Sharief and also distribute improved seeds and fertiliser for 5,000 farmers in the north-east of Afghanistan. These irrigation and livelihood projects will encourage farmers not to grow poppies.

What would your message to potential donors be regarding the situation in Afghanistan?

All donors need to look beyond temporary and short-term relief activities. Instead of spending millions and billions on show-piece activities during post-conflict scenarios, donors should unite on a common platform and spend some money in a bid to stop any future conflict.

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