Saturday, May 26, 2007

Afghan Children Forced to Eat Mud: Corporations Eating $$

"The international community is in danger of repeating in Afghanistan the mistakes made in Iraq. Millions of Afghans have seen little material improvement in their lives since 2001, and most still live in desperate poverty. From the start, the damage inflicted by a quarter-century of war was underestimated; this is not about repairing the state but building it from scratch.

"Rural communities have seen some improvements, but essential services are scarce or inadequate. In provinces where Oxfam works such as Daikundi, there is no mains water or electricity, and virtually no paved roads. Average life expectancy in Daikundi is 42 and one in five children dies before the age of five. Afghan children chew on mud they scratch from the walls of their homes to stave off hunger.


"America is bankrolling Afghanistan. It is responsible for more than half of all aid to the country (aid that accounts for about a third of GDP), and it plans to provide $10.6bn in the next two years. But as in Iraq, a vast proportion of aid is wasted. Political pressure in donor countries for rapid results has led to projects that are unsuitable and unsustainable. Most aid money goes to programmes in the opium-intensive, insecure provinces in the south. To neglect secure provinces is to invite the insurgency to spread.

"Close to half of US development assistance goes to the five biggest US contractors in the country. Too much money is lost to high salaries and living costs, non-Afghan resources and corporate profits. The overall cost of one expatriate consultant is about half a million dollars a year. International contractors are indispensable, but there needs to be rigorous scrutiny, with targets for increased use of Afghan resources. An aid ombudsman could monitor complaints and make recommendations.

From The Independent via Angry Arab Newservice

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