A third of Afghans at risk of hunger shows need for urgent aid reforms

Published: 19th August 2009

Too few ordinary Afghans are benefiting from international aid efforts in their country, with a third of the population at risk of hunger, international aid agency Oxfam warned today.
The agency said although billions of pounds have been given to Afghanistan as aid, it has been woefully insufficient to deal with legacy of three decades of conflict and chaos.
The US spends $100m a day on security but the overall aid budget for all donors combined is less than $7m a day.
Aid can make a huge difference in Afghanistan but it has to be well-spent. The election of a new government in Kabul must be accompanied by major reforms in governance and aid effectiveness, Oxfam said today. So far much of the money given by foreign governments is ineffective, uncoordinated or wasteful, and doesn’t reach ordinary Afghans.
Grace Ommer, Oxfam GB’s country director for Afghanistan, said: “The problems in Afghanistan are huge but they aren’t intractable. Much has improved since 2001. More children are in school, health facilities are better and the infrastructure is slowly improving. But Afghanistan should and could be doing much better than it is.”
Poverty levels remain some of the worst in the world, with 40% of Afghans living below the poverty line. One woman dies every 30 minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth.
After nearly eight years of Western presence in Afghanistan, Oxfam said many areas are facing severe food shortages with nearly 7.3m people at risk of hunger. The situation is made worse by the conflict which places many areas off limits to aid workers.
Ommer said: “The international community has promised a lot to the Afghan people but much aid and reconstruction have failed to live up to those promises. Donors have double pledged funds and have been slow to disburse aid money, a situation compounded by inefficiency, lack of accountability and corruption. Aid that does reach Afghanistan often doesn’t reach the people it’s meant to help, or it is spent on projects which fulfil donor’s priorities, rather than Afghan needs.”
Despite all these problems the people of Afghanistan still need our help.
Ommer added:  “Vast amounts of aid money are funnelled through Provincial Reconstruction Teams – military-dominated institutions that are ill-equipped do aid work. In many parts of Afghanistan this militarization of aid work is not promoting development or stability and is drawing civilians further into the conflict. More of the money should go through local institutions and communities, or to aid agencies, who often have greater impact and efficiency.”

The problems in Afghanistan are huge but they aren’t intractable.
Grace Ommer
Oxfam GB's Country Director, Afghanistan