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Is the aid really helping?

Latest update : 2008-06-12

NGOs estimate that less than half the aid sent to Afghanistan is allocated directly to projects. Special report by Claire Billet.

The aged, bearded man points to the asphalt on the road in front of his house in Kapisa province, two hours from Kabul. “Those who received the money made that road and its quality is really poor. You can see it with your own eyes: the road is damaged," he says.

 

The project to reconstruct the main road started a year ago but it's surprisingly quiet now. No one is working there. “Have a look. They have made this bridge but it's not strong enough. It's been ruined by the cars driving on it," says Mohamed Jabar, head of programs at the Ministry for Development in Kapisa province.

 

Low-quality materials were used and the work was badly done. So the Afghan Ministry for Development decided to break the contract with that reconstruction company and start anew. The project of building 40 km of road will cost $3 million, funded by the US.

 

This is just one example of the problems surrounding effectiveness of aid in Afghanistan. “To gain and keep Afghan trust, we really have to deliver what they need throughout the country,” says Chris Alexander, second in command at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan  (UNAMA).

 

“We have to be honest in deciding which bodies and which programmes have been effective and deliver goods to them," he adds.

 

This question is at the heart of the debate at the conference of international donors in Paris. The aid money in Afghanistan is used by international organizations, NGOs, and also private enterprises that work in the field of development.

 

The financing system is complex and often opaque. In 2007, a package of $1.3 billion was mobilized by the international community. But according to Lorenzo Delesgues, Director of the NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan, this money doesn’t go directly to the Afghan people.

 

“Out of every 100 euros, 20 go to security, 15 to salaries, 10 to 15 to subcontractors. So we only have half the original amount to implement projects,” he laments.

 

International organizations are aware of the cost. They will use the Paris conference to reinforce the role of Afghanistan’s own government in rebuilding. In a nation still classified by the UN as the fifth most underdeveloped nation, the Afghan population is more needful than ever.

 

 

Date created : 2008-06-12

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