Afghanistan: Social mobilisation extremely cost-effective

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 24 Mar 2000
Islamabad (Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan),24 March 2000 - "In a prolonged crisis, such as that in Afghanistan, we cannot delay providing rehabilitation and development assistance to those who are ready for it, " said Knut Ostby at the press briefing today in the Office of the UN Co-ordinator for Afghanistan. Ostby is Senior Deputy Resident Representative for UNDP Afghanistan. He pointed to the UNDP Poverty Eradication and Community Empowerment (PEACE) initiative as the main umbrella to help local communities in Afghanistan help themselves both to escape the poverty trap and to help in peace building at the local level. The only programme in Afghanistan working in twenty-six districts and six cities in Afghanistan through Community Based Organisations (CBOs), PEACE Initiative programmes provide the chance for Afghans to find alternate livelihoods to war, to foster amicable settlement of returning refugees, and to maximise collaboration among both UN agencies and NGOs.
Samantha Reynolds, Programme Manger for UNCHS (Habitat), which focuses on urban rehabilitation, explained that while UN programmes such as Habitat cannot solve all the physical needs of Afghan communities, they can meaningfully assist communities to address their greatest needs on their own--"through their most important resource--the considerable human resources represented by the people of Afghanistan." She also noted that community mobilisation serves to build relationships and trust among common people, and to foster the culture of peace among Afghan people, including in the areas of health and home based education.

Regional Manager Fekare Gebrekal of the Afghan Rural Rehabilitation Project (through UNOPS) characterised the greatest achievement of the PEACE Initiative is its success in bringing together diverse United Nations agencies to work for common goals. "Afghan people can help and want to help themselves," said Gebrekal, "but they require assistsnce in mobilising in rural areas." AARP has concentrated particularly on using Community Based Organisations to strengthen participation at the local and district levels, to assist in the rehabilitation of social and productive infrastructure and to provide credit through local revolving funds. This, he said, would prove the means for making the programme sustainable in the long run and building human potential to continue external support.

Representing the Comprehensive Disabled Afghans Programme of UNOPS, Mr. Farooq Wardak noted that CDAP targets the most vulnerable including the disabled, widows, and orphans in a programme which seeks to integrate marginalised sections of the population within their communities. "We estimate that there are up to 800,000 disabled people in Afghanistan in need of services, due to a combination of land mines, conflict, and disease," he said. CDAP works through establishing community organisations and identifies volunteers to both help the disabled directly and to train others to provide the help needed by the large population of disabled persons.

Mr. Ostby stressed that although conflict continues in some areas of Afghanistan, in large swaths of the country that are at peace, rehabilitation assistance is both possible and necessary. He stated that the entire cost of the PEACE Initiative is a mere USD 20 million per year, which breaks down into about USD 20 for each person reached, less than the price of a meal in restaurant. Such programs have achieved momentum over the years, and without continued funding, that momentum could be lost, which would be tragic for the vulnerable, for returning refugees, and for women.

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