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Reaching the Hardest To Reach: Giving Aid to Afghanistan

The new report from the UK’s Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) on aid to Afghanistan highlights some important issues about the difficulty of delivering aid to conflict affected and fragile states.

In countries with little infrastructure, recurrent instability and questionable governance delivering aid effectively and monitoring exactly where every penny goes can be very difficult, but many of the poorest and most vulnerable people live in fragile states so we have an obligation to help.

Conflict affected and fragile states are home to 1.5 billion people, many of whom live in insecure and impoverished environments. These countries tend to have the greatest levels of income poverty, the highest rates of maternal and child mortality and malnutrition, the lowest levels of school enrolment, and the worst-quality public services. Not a single Millennium Development Goal will be met in a fragile state.

A quiet revolution for the better

In spite of these challenges many countries, like Afghanistan, are making dramatic progress, in large part thanks to overseas aid. Justin Forsyth, Save the Children UK’s CEO, was in Afghanistan recently and described a ‘quiet revolution that is changing Afghanistan for the better.’

Not very long ago one in five children died from preventable illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhoea and one in 11 expectant mothers died from causes relating to pregnancy or child birth.

Now new data by the Afghan government says deaths have been cut dramatically, to one in 10 children and one in 50 mothers. These improvements are thanks to new health clinics and more health workers – the majority of which are being supported by overseas aid.

This statistics show the amazing impact that aid is having on the lives of ordinary people, otherwise forced to live without the services and support that we often take for granted.

Hardest to reach, most in need

These people are the hardest to reach and the ones most in need of our help. If we don’t help them, then our global development aspirations will never be achieved (see our report A Fair Chance At Life for more information on the importance of reaching the hardest to reach).

Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is both brave and right to work in such contexts and we applaud them. They should not be put off by the ICAI report but embrace its helpful recommendations on skilled staff to manage the distribution of funds and financial risk assessments.

Putting in place these checks and balances will help to strengthen the effectiveness of DFID’s aid programme in Afghanistan and build on the impact it is already having.

Continued assistance to Afghanistan will be vital for the country’s many poor people, as the Afghan government slowly starts to put in place the political, economic and social infrastructure that will enable it to care for its own citizens and eventually stand on its own two feet.

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