Debate over level of progress in Afghanistan

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Debate over level of progress in Afghanistan

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Seven years after the fall of the Taliban, and there is still great debate about what has actually been achieved in Afghanistan. The capital Kabul, which is easily accessible to humanitarian organisations, receives a disproportionate amount of assistance compared to other regions.

The streets of Kabul can give a false impression about the country’s rate of progress. On the outskirts of the city, thousands of people from the countryside arrive to set up camp, building temporary shelters without water or power. It would be difficult to tell these people that things are getting better.

On the positive side, though, the number of children receiving an education has risen from one million to 5.7. Some 35 percent of them are girls. Today, 82 percent of the population have access to health services, compared to nine percent seven years ago. 12,000 kilometres of roads have been built and five million refugees have returned home.

But, on the other hand, only 50 percent of children attend school, 70 to 80 percent of marriages are said to be forced marriages and life expectancy for an Afghan is 43 years. And the economy is still dependent on drugs. 93 percent of the world’s opium is produced there.

There are also concerns that not enough aid is getting through to those in need, or that it is being distributed unevenly.

Experts give various reasons: insecurity in some regions keeps aid workers away, but also a big share of the money is not going to the central government, because of fears about corruption. Aid agencies receive the money directly, and they have their own priorities on who gets help.

It is estimated that out of the 25 billion euros promised for Afghanistan in 2001, only about 15 billion, or 9.7 billion euros, has been spent. Out of 100 dollars of aid money, Afghans see just under a third. 15 to 30 percent goes on security for the humanitarian agencies, where 85 percent of staff and resources come from overseas.

70,000 foreign soldiers remain in Afghanistan, in a conflict that continues to divide public opinion. And to pay for that security, it comes out of the budget allocated by Western donors.