Children attending school beneath a tree. A project funded by Oxfam America and implemented by an Oxfam partner (DACAR) in Shamali (north Kabul). Credit: Kenny Rae/Oxfam
Afgahnistan needs more health workers, teachers and better infrastructure

President Karzai’s new government must deliver on schools, midwives and police

“Positive change can happen in Afghanistan, but there must be political will in Kabul and long term support from the international community.”
Grace Ommer
Head of Oxfam in Afghanistan
Published: 3 November 2009

The new Afghan government must urgently devote greater resources to building up to 6,000 new schools, training upwards of 5,000 new midwives and professionalizing the police force, according to aid agencies working throughout Afghanistan. Their set of recommendations to the new Afghan administration also highlights the reforms needed in governance.

The recommendations, written by a group of national and international non-governmental organizations including Oxfam International, Cooperation Centre for Afghanistan (CCA) and Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), also call for the protection of civilians and securing the rights of women.

Mary Akrami, head of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre (AWSDC), said: “Life expectancy is still only 43 years and in many areas the rate of maternal mortality is the highest in the world. Half of all schools in Afghanistan don’t have buildings. The country needs more health workers, more teachers and better infrastructure. Afghans are desperate to see improvements in all these areas.”

Grace Ommer, head of Oxfam in Afghanistan, said: “Our recommendations are ambitious, given the increasing violence in Afghanistan. But they are not impossible. Over the last eight years Afghanistan has made significant progress, enrolling over six million children in primary school and expanding access to healthcare by 40%.”

“Positive change can happen in Afghanistan, but there must be political will in Kabul and long term support from the international community.”

The report suggests ensuring government appointments are made on merit and that human rights and criminal records are thoroughly checked. Access to equitable justice remains limited and despite modest improvements in the Afghan National Police, the force needs more reforms such as better oversight and improvements in pay.

Mirwais Wardak, Program Director for Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU) said: “Afghans overwhelmingly want their government to deliver basic services and maintain law and order. But too much waste and inefficiency and a lack of access to justice has frustrated Afghans and undermined confidence in the government.”

The organizations called for international donors to improve transparency and provide complete information to help the Afghan government track and coordinate foreign aid, which funds around 80% of its budget.

Dr. Hamid Saljuqi, Director of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), said: “The Afghan government faces immense challenges in making aid money work more effectively. Too often aid delivery is opaque or distorted by the conflict, rather than being spent according to need. Donors should provide complete information about the aid they give, and devote more funds to long-term projects that are aligned with the Afghan National Development Strategy.”

As the Afghan National Security Forces start to take on more military operations protecting civilians should also be a priority for the new government. There should be more checks and balances to prevent abuses and to investigate abuses when they do occur. An autonomous forensic unit should be set up to address allegations that pro-government forces have killed or injured civilians.

The recommendations highlighted the progress made for women since the fall of the Taliban whilst noting that many of these fragile and limited gains are in serious danger of being reversed. Oxfam said the government should secure the rights of women enshrined in the Afghan constitution, for example by fully enforcing the Elimination of Violence Against Women act, which criminalizes rape and provides greater protection for female survivors of violence.

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Oxfam's response to the conflict in Afghanistan

Oxfam's Health and Education Campaign 

Notes to Editors

The recommendations were contained in a “Memo to the President”.
The signatories to this memo are: Afghan Development Association (ADA), Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA), Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre (AWSDC), Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), Cooperation Centre for Afghanistan (CCA), Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU), Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ETC), Helping Afghan Farmers Organization (HAFO), Human Rights Advocacy and Research Consortium (HRRAC), Oxfam International, Organization for Human Welfare (OHW), Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), Saba Media Organization (SMO) and Skills, Trainings and Rehabilitation Society (STARS).