Uruzgan residents urge continued Australian aid
KABUL, TIRINKOT (Pajhwok): Uruzgan residents, happy with the reconstruction projects implemented by Australia, hope for Canberra’s continued development assistance to the impoverished central province.
They say Australia has implemented several key public welfare projects in the province over the last four years. The much-needed schemes were implemented by the Provincial Rehabilitation Team (PRT).
Initially, the United States led the Uruzgan PRT, which was transferred to the Netherlands following the withdrawal of American troops in 2010. Later, Australia took over the team.
Playing a vital role in bringing peace and stability to Uruzgan, the Australians also extended consistent financial support for reconstruction activity and civilian assistance.
Samiullah Mamnoon, a civil society activist, acknowledged Australian-led PRT projects had benefitted a large number of people. On the other hand, he recalled, the plans executed by the US and the Netherlands beneficial a small number of residents.
Australia has delivered an estimated id="mce_marker"30.9 million in aid to Afghanistan during 2013-14 and that level of funding is expected to continue in 2014-15. That makes Afghanistan Australia’s fourth largest bilateral aid programme.
Mohammad Naseem, another resident, agreed people were reaping the benefits of the Australian PRT projects. He claimed the Netherland and the US had launched rehabilitation projects with the consent of tribal elders. But the schemes benefited few people.
Najibullah, a civil society activist, said Australia had embarked on long-term projects but some of them were yet to be implemented. Khas Uruzgan-Tirinkot, Charchino-Deh Rawud and Kandahar-Uruzgan roads are among the project the Australian government has promised to complete.
Eng. Mohammad Hashim, rural rehabilitation and development director, said Australia had spent $5 million through his department on public welfare projects in the province.
Buildings for the National Radio Television, the governor’s house, a conference hall, a guest house, a grand mosque and some high schools are among the Australian-funded projects in Uruzgan.
Abdul Rahman, an official at the governor’s house, said the Australians had provided assistance for promoting good governance in the province. It extended $34 million to safeguard children’s rights.
Jon Philp, the Australian ambassador to Afghanistan, said his country remained committed to extending long-term support to Uruzgan. The aid includes id="mce_marker"00 million to Afghan security forces and id="mce_marker"30 in rehabilitation and civil assistance.
The Australian PRT has completed several projects in the provincial capital and districts. Many of the initiatives are aimed at capacity building of Afghan forces.
Philp explained the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had promised to build the Tirinkot-Uruzgan road. He denied they had not compromised the quality of work, saying he would investigate the matter.
The diplomat claimed Australia, along with its international partners, had achieved a great deal in Uruzgan. From August 2010 to October 2013, DFAT led the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team, working with US, Dutch and Slovak nationals.
There have been demonstrable improvements in security, development and governance capacity in Uruzgan, starting from a very low base.
- Roads, schools and healthcare services have all been improved.
- 200 kilometres of roads and bridges have been upgraded, improving access to markets, health and education services and generating employment opportunities for thousands of people in the province.
- There are now 26 girls’ schools and around 200 schools in total in Uruzgan Province, a twenty-fold increase since 2001.
- Up to 80 per cent of pregnant women now receive at least one pre-natal health care visit, 24 new midwives and 23 nurses are being trained to support further improvements in women’s and maternal health services.
- The capacity of the provincial administration has been strengthened so that it can more effectively deliver services for the people of Uruzgan and respond to human rights challenges.
- Local Afghan National Security Forces have been trained to provide security and combat the insurgency.
“Although Australia no longer has a direct presence in Uruzgan, we remain committed to Uruzgan’s future stability and security. Our diplomatic engagement and development assistance programme, conducted from the embassy in Kabul, will be important pillars of our bilateral relationship,” he continued.
Philp said Australia’s ongoing support to Uruzgan includes:
- Continuing support for the Children of Uruzgan program ($35.7 million 2011-30 June 2015), implemented by Save the Children. Australia’s major on-going education and health program in Uruzgan continues to be delivered successfully since the closure of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2013. The Children of Uruzgan program has constructed 6 schools which are supporting 2,890 students, established 73 community-based classes with 2,775 students, (573 girls) and established 75 early childhood groups supporting 2,440 children (1,036 girls) as well as providing extensive health services (including health clinics, nutrition and vaccination programs) to support communities to enable children to access education.
- The Uruzgan Rural Access Project ($25 million; 2012-2015) is run by the United Nations Office for Project Services, in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and the Ministry of Public Works. It builds rural roads and bridges, creating jobs and economic opportunities, enabling access to essential services and markets, and connecting districts to the provincial government administration.
1. Mehrabad School
All school construction under Australia’s major education project in Uruzgan, the Children of Uruzgan project, has been completed. The 10-classroom Mehrabad Primary School has been completed and handed over to the provincial authorities. In total, Australia has supported construction of six schools and refurbishment of 30 schools under the Children of Uruzgan project.
2. Tarin Kot central hospital. We have no information about the central hospital and were not involved in its construction. The focus of our health program was on community health centres, not hospitals.
3. Road from Khas Uruzgan to Shahid-i-Hasas. Australia (DFAT) is currently funding construction of 27km of road from Sorkh Lez to Chinartu which is due to be completed by December 2015. This two lane gravel road continues on from the 17km sealed road also funded by Australia (Australian Defence Force) from Tarin Kot to Sorkh Lez which was completed in 2013. Both sections form part of the road from Khas Uruzgan to Shahid-e-Hasas.
4. Australia has provided over id="mce_marker" billion in ODA to Afghanistan since 2001.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.