InterAction Members in Afghanistan No. 2 May 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
A Guide to Advocacy, Development and Humanitarian Efforts of InterAction Member Agencies

Produced by the Disaster Response Unit of InterAction ®
American Council for Voluntary International Action
1717 Massachusetts Avenue N.W. #701,
Washington D.C. 20036 phone (202)667-8227 fax (202) 667-8236
Table of Contents

Report Summary
Organizations by Sector
Humanitarian Situation
Agency Activity Summaries:
Church World Service (CWS)
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Mercy Corps International (MCI)
Medecins sans Frontieres/
Doctors Without Borders USA (MSF)
Save the Children (SC)

All of the NGOs in this guide are members of InterAction, a coalition of over 150 humanitarian, relief, development, and refugee organizations working in 160 nations. As such, they subscribe to institutional, ethical and practical standards that promote effectiveness and accountability.

Report Summary

This guide offers International Agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, and the public an overview of the humanitarian assistance being provided in Afghanistan by InterAction's member agencies.

Six InterAction member organizations currently conduct relief and development operations in Afghanistan and for Afghani refugees in Pakistan. Seven sector areas are addressed in programming including agriculture and food production, business development, community development, disaster and emergency relief, education and training, public health, refugee services, and rehabilitation. Please see iii. for organizations listed by sector activity.

The NGOs in this report have presented the following project objectives: enhancing emergency preparedness; improving access to and quality of health care services; affecting sustainable reductions in maternal and child mortality rates; increasing participation of women in primary and secondary education; providing economic opportunities via microfinance activities; increasing landmine awareness; supporting coping mechanisms for war-affected children and refugees; encouraging rehabilitation of devastated areas; and facilitating refugee repatriation.

Humanitarian activities tend to cluster in the southwest corner of Afghanistan. Seven provinces were specifically mentioned including: Baghlan Balkh, Faryab, Ghazni, Helmand, Kabol, Konduz, Lawgar, Nangarrhar, Paktia, Quandahar, Takhar, Vardak. Three organizations provide refugee services in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, in Balochistan, and around Islamabad.

Several NGOs work in coordination or through the support of international partners including, AUSAID, European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Government of the Netherlands, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Medecins Sans Frontieres France, and Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland, Refugees International Japan, Stichting Vluchteling, UNFAO, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNWFP.

Taliban restrictions on women's activities outside the home were presented as a special concern for NGOs in the region. Frustration over the increasing link between politics and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan as well as an alarming lack of security for humanitarian workers were also noted.

Organizations by Sector Activity

Agriculture and Food Production

International Rescue Committee
Mercy Corps International

Business Development
International Rescue Committee
Save the Children
Community Development
Save the Children

Disaster and Emergency Relief
Church World Services
International Rescue Committee

International Rescue Committee
Mercy Corps International
Save the Children

Public Health
Church World Service
International Rescue Committee
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders USA
Mercy Corps International

Refugee Services
Church World Service
International Rescue Committee
Mercy Corps International

Mercy Corps International

Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has suffered continuous conflict since Soviet forces invaded the country in 1979. The Soviet pull-out left behind a nation locked in ongoing civil strife. The Taliban declared itself the legitimate government of Afghanistan in September, 1996. It controls the capital, Kabul, as well as 85% of the country. Opposition factions are concentrated in the north. The UN Cevdentiale Committee has deferred on offering the Taliban Afghanistan's seat in the General Assembly until the question of legitimacy can be resolved through negotiation among opposing factions. The country has become a breeding ground for international terrorism. Suspects including Osama bin Laden have taken advantage of the collapsed state to establish training bases and terrorist safehavens. An increase in narcotics production and trafficking has been an additional concern. According to Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfuth, Afghanistan now ranks as the second largest producer of opium in the world.

The lingering conflict has disrupted the Afghan economy. Industry and gas exports have declined as a result of warfare. Agriculture production, the country's main activity has dropped significantly. Despite a favorable outlook for this year's cereal harvest, it is expected that the country will continue to require large food imports, forecast at 740,000 tons, to feed its growing population. According to an FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission in July 1998, "coping mechanisms which have enabled the disadvantaged to survive and avoid a famine situation are becoming over-stretched in areas directly affected by the ongoing conflict." In addition to the devastating impact of conflict, the country has been plagued with natural disasters including earthquakes and flooding in its southern and western provinces.

Approximately 30% of Afghanistan's population of 20 million fled the country or were internally displaced at the peak of the conflict in the early 1990s. Today, the proportion of widows, orphans, disabled, and unemployed in Afghanistan ranks highest in the world. According to UNDP statistics, the country also has one of the world's highest levels of infant and maternal mortality, and the lowest level of life expectancy. Access to potable water and adequate health care is extremely low. Recently a mysterious flu-like illness was reported by WHO officials in northeastern Afghanistan , compounding the country's already tenuous overall state of health. This illness has proved deadly largely due to poor living conditions and inadequate medicines. Education, another socio-economic indicator, also rates very poorly. The World Bank reports that approximately 70% of the population aged 15 and above is illiterate. Political factors have impacted humanitarian response efforts. Specifically, the Taliban, in power since 1994, has imposed severe restrictions in much of the country. While not enforced uniformly or constantly, there are edicts which forbid women from working outside the home, prohibit girls from attending school, and enforce a strict dress code. These restrictions and other instances of interference have posed a considerable challenge for aid workers. Donors have noted their concerns about Afghanistan's abysmal human rights record, as well as its violation of the basic humanitarian precept that assistance be equally available to all beneficiaries. Security poses another concern. The aid community has only recently begun to return to work in the country after a seven month absence following the kidnap and murder of UN staff members. Despite these impediments, the international community has been active in and around Afghanistan, conducting programs ranging from emergency relief to long-term rehabilitation and development.

151 Ellis Street, NE, Atlanta, GA 30303
404-681-2552 ph / 404-577-5977
WWW: http//

Program Contact:
Isam Ghanin
Regional Director, Asia/Europe
Phone: (404) 681-2552, ext. 184
Fax: (203) 221-3799

CARE established its mission in Afghanistan in 1961. Its first projects focused on medical training and improving health care service delivery. The 1979 Soviet invasion and the violent civil war that followed made it necessary for CARE to suspend operations from 1980 until 1989. In 1989, CARE launched a relief and rehabilitation project in Konar Province, an area that had been badly affected by the war. CARE currently operates a wide variety of activities which include food distribution, road reconstruction, irrigation system repair, erosion control, water and sanitation system rehabilitation and operations, home schooling, and small economic activity development. Due to the insecurity caused by continued fighting between rival factions, CARE Afghanistan's main office is located in Peshawar, Pakistan, located near the Afghan/Pakistani border, but it maintains sub-offices in Kabul and in five other cities.

Care's Gardiz City Water and Sanitation project aims to install water supply systems, improve waste water and drainage systems and extend health information to 28,000 residents in the city for the benefit of 4000 households. The project is based in the Paktia province.

The Kabul Emergency Widows Feeding for Widow Headed Households distributes a supplementary food ration to over 11,000 widow headed households in Kabul. Over 66,000 people, including the widows' dependent children, are able to maintain a basic level of nutrition despite the depravations of the ongoing civil war and the Taliban restrictions on the movement and employment of women. The project is managed by an all-female registration and distribution team, and a female monitoring team ensures that the food gets to its intended beneficiaries.

The Home Schooling Project establishes "home schools" in communities where regular classroom instruction is not available. Forty home schools have been established in Khost, and over 1,200 children (40% are girls) have enrolled. Teachers (20% are women) attend training workshops before a school opens and each school receives teaching materials, textbooks and other supplies. In addition, education "shuras," or parents organizations, are formed to look after school maintenance, attendance of teachers and students and other issues related to the home schools project. All teacher's salaries and other expenses are paid by the communities.

The Kabul Water and Sanitation Project is working to rehabilitate the municipal water supply and improve street drainage and urban sanitation. The project has benefited more than 500,000 people, or half the total population of Kabul. Up to 4,000 men are employed each month of the project on a food-for-work basis. This provides most of them with the first gainful employment they have had in years.

The Relief for Widows Project is helping 1,000 widows and their children by providing them wheat as "payment" for their work making quilts. The women are provided 15.4 pounds of wheat per quilt, or 154 pounds of wheat per month for the 10 quilts which each woman can produce in that time period. The project provides the widows with a much-needed basic food staple, helps them develop a practical skill which can bring in much-needed income, and increases the women's self-esteem. The project, which began as an emergency feeding project in 1994, was expanded in November 1995 to include the quilt-making component. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees buys the quilts from CARE to use in Afghan refugee camps. The money is placed in a rotating fund which CARE uses to fund project activities. CARE's local partners in this effort are the Afghan Women's High Association (AWHA) and the women's section of the National Association of the Disabled (NADA). By working with these groups, CARE is helping them to build their capacity so that they will be able to effectively assist widows and other vulnerable groups without CARE's support.

Finally, CARE's Security of Food for Afghan Returnees consists of a broad range of food-for-work activities which aim to meet the basic needs of 35,000 returning Afghan refugee families in Paktia, Ghazni, Logar, and Wardak provinces. CARE helps communities identify, develop and implement project activities designed to rehabilitate the rural economy. CARE provides project community facilitation and civil engineering skills together with tools and construction materials that are not locally available. Communities contribute labor and local materials. Project activities include road reconstruction, irrigation system repair, erosion control, and tree planting. These activities play an important role in the repatriation process by creating conditions which encourage refugees to return home and begin to rebuild their lives.

Church World Service
475 Riverside Rd. Room 678 New York, NY 10115-0050
212-870-3523 ph / 212-870-2055 fax

Program Contact: Douglas R. Beane

Coordinator, Afghan Program, CWS Pakistan
Phone: (212) 870-3523
Fax: (212) 870-2055
Marvin Parvez
Regional Director- Pakistan/Afghanistan CWS program
Fax: 92(21) 722-6055

Church World Service (CWS) conducts healthcare programs, earthquake response activities, and refugee services in Afghanistan and for Afghani refugees in Pakistan. Its Nangarhar Health Project for mother and child care takes place in three locations within Afghanistan. The program serves a total of approximately 100,176 people. The project provides preventive and essential curative health services in selected districts in Nangarhar Province.

CWS has also been active in earthquake response in the Rustag District. It has provided relief services for 1,500 families in 15 villages. Assistance efforts were also offered for a target group of 2,500 families in 56 villages in Wardak and Lugar Provinces.

Additionally, CWS promotes better health care for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Its Mansehra Primary Health Project has a target group of 50,000 Afghans refugees.

International Rescue Committee
122 East 42nd St. 12th Floor New York, NY 10168-3184
212-551-3000 ph / 212-551-3184 fax

Program Contacts:
(Headquarters) Semir Tanovic
Program Specialist, Overseas Programs
Phone: (212) 551-3069
Fax: (212) 551-3185
(Field) Eric van der Lee

Country Director- Pakistan
Peshawar Main Office, 12 Chinar Rd, University Town
Peshawar, Pakistan
Phone: 92 (091) 41274/41845
(direct #: 92 (091) 840203)
Fax: 92 (091) 840283
Kabul Field Office, c/o IRC Pakistan
Gardez Field Office, c/o IRC Pakistan
Khost Field Office, c/o IRC Pakistan

International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been implementing relief and development programs in Afghanistan since 1988 and has worked with Afghan refugees in Pakistan since 1980. Increasingly in recent years, the program focus has shifted from short-term emergency relief to mid-term and long-term strategies for rehabilitation and development. This is particularly true for the IRC Afghanistan Rehabilitation Program (ARP) which is implementing an integrated development program encompassing agriculture, engineering (irrigation systems rehabilitation and water supply systems), education and small business development (micro-credit). The programs target specific geographic areas in Khost, Paktia and Logar provinces of southeastern Afghanistan.

IRC's objective is to assist and rebuild areas that suffered devastation during the war, in particular, those areas from which most of the IRC-served refugees in Pakistan originate, thus facilitating Afghan refugee repatriation to their ancestral villages. Capacity building of Afghan organizations is an integral part of the program. IRC estimates that between 350,000 and 400,000 persons benefit from its integrated development efforts inside Afghanistan. Program duration varies but with the change to development-oriented planning, IRC has been able to secure funding for a two year period.

In Pakistan, IRC's program for Afghan refugees concentrates on the provision of curative and preventive health care services; primary and secondary education programs with a special focus on girls and women (including teacher training, school support and monitoring and supervision); female health education programs; clean drinking water supply to refugee camps; and support for micro-projects. In 1998, IRC Pakistan initiated a new program dedicated to providing assistance to the most vulnerable among the refugee population by allocating grants to local NGOs to implement micro-projects. Special consideration is given to: under-served and needy areas/population groups, to projects that reach or include minority populations and to activities that specifically expand services for women and children. The program also addresses newly arrived refugees. An estimated 300,000 Afghan refugees located mainly in the Hangu-Thal and Peshawar area benefit (directly or indirectly) from these programs. IRC implements its refugee assistance programs throughout the Northwest Frontier Province and includes activities in Balochistan in Pakistan. Programs in Pakistan are usually funded for a one year period, however, the NGO support program has funding for a two year period.

Donors include: Stichting Vluchteling, the Government of the Netherlands, the European Union, US Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, UNHCR, FAO, Refugees International Japan, IRC NY, and some private foundations.

IRC noted special concerns on a number of recent developments as having negatively impacted NGO programs. Among these are Taliban restrictions on women's activities outside the home, including restrictions on school attendance. In 1995, the best-informed estimate was that roughly one million Afghan children were enrolled in primary classes. Informed opinion among the assistance community is that these numbers have gone down since the ascendancy of the Taliban Islamic militia in Kabul in September 1996. The claim that the school enrollment for girls has drastically decreased is obvious given the Taliban edicts and their implementation in urban areas. Secondly, linkage between humanitarian assistance and politics has been disruptive: politics is increasingly dominating the flow of assistance. Donors may delay or deny funding in response to political events. Finally, young Afghan refugees in Pakistan are finding it increasingly difficult to continue education beyond the secondary school level. Most of the Afghan institutes of higher education in the NWFP have been closed by the local authorities on various pretexts. IRC itself was obliged in recent years to close its promising professional development and engineering programs for Afghan refugees because of lack of donor support.

Mercy Corps International
3030 SW 1st Avenue Portland,
OR 97201
503-796-6800 ph / 503-796-6844 fax

Program Contacts:
(Headquarters) Lynn Renken
Program Officer
Phone: (503) 796-6800
Fax: (503) 796-6843
(Field) Mark Pont, Country Director
PO Box 314
House No. 10 Arbab Karam Rd.
Quetta, Pakistan
Media Contact: Laura Guimond

Mercy Corps International is rebuilding bridges, hospitals, health care systems, and other community assets needed to help returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to rebuild their lives. It supports infrastructure repair and the restoration of health care delivery to encourage Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan to repatriate to their community in Helmand. Mercy Corps is also providing veterinary services to Afghan farmers and community-based veterinary training to extension workers in Southwest Afghanistan through a UNFAO program.

Under a UNWFP program, Mercy Corps assists bakeries to provide displaced and needy Afghans in Jalalabad with daily bread rations. It trains Afghan engineers to undertake rural rehabilitation projects in Kandahar with European Union (EU) support and conducts crop substitution, infrastructure repair, and small income generation projects to encourage alternative ways to earn a livelihood in Helmand (INL). With UNICEF, Mercy Corps encourages capacity building in 5 refugee communities in Balochistan, Pakistan to manage their health care. Finally, Mercy Corps has undertaken a qualitative survey of the situation of women in its project areas. The scale of these projects covers approximately 150,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders USA
11 East 26th St. Suite 1904 New York, NY 10010
212-679-6800 ph / 212-679-7016 fax
WWW: http//

Program contacts:
(Headquarters) Catherine Harper
Phone: (212) 679-6800
Fax: (212) 679-7016
(Brussels Office) Program and Media Contact
Jan Weuts
94 Rue Dupre
1090 Brussels, Belgium
Phone: 32-2-47-47- 474

MSF/Doctors Without Borders USA's primary objectives in Afghanistan include emergency preparedness in a network of clinics in five provinces operated by MSF/France, and MSF/Holland. MSF/Doctors Without Borders also provides primary and secondary healthcare services, medical supplies, supervision and training. Project sites include: four clinics in Balkh/Mazar, one hospital in Bamian/Panjao, four clinics in Faryab/Maimana, five clinics in Baghlan/Phul-I-Khumri, Four clinics in Kunduz/Kunduz, and one hospital and three clinics in Takhar/Taloquan. Actual expatriate presence includes ten personnel of MSF/France and MSF/Holland in the field.

Donors include AUSAID, and ECHO, and collaboration with MSF France, MSF Holland and the ICRC.

Save the Children
54 Wilton Road Westport, CT 06880
203-221-4000 ph / 202-454-3914 fax
WWW: http//

Program Contact: Donna Stefano
Asia/Middle East Desk Officer
Phone: (203) 221-4027
Fax: (203) 221-3799

Save the Children (SC/US) established a field office in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1985 from which it launched a program of assistance to Afghan refugees. From 1988 to 1993, SC/US began implementing a wide range of cross border rehabilitation projects in the eastern and southwestern regions of Afghanistan, in addition to its refugee programs. In 1994-95, S/USs Pakistan/Afghanistan Field Office (PAFO) opened its first sub-offices inside Afghanistan--in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, as well as in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif and the town of Andkhoi in northern Afghanistan. Since 1995, the Afghan program has experienced significant growth, increasing from $1 million in 1995 to approximately $2.8 million in 1998. PAFO goes into 1999 with a woman and child-focused program, implementing health, education, economic opportunities and assisting children in crisis activities in Afghanistan, as well as in refugee camps in Pakistan.

The SC/US program for Afghanistan, including Afghan refugees in Pakistan, currently reaches approximately 300,000 direct beneficiaries, as well as some 540,000 indirect beneficiaries. The number of direct beneficiaries is expected to remain at the current level while the number of indirect beneficiaries is expected to grow as SC/US expands its work in capacity-building and lobbying.

PAFO's Afghan program addresses the needs of children and women in the following three sectoral programs and one inter-sectoral program:

Health- These projects include: Primary Health Care in Haripur and northern Afghanistan; and Acute Respiratory Infection and Control of Diarrheal Disease (ARI/CDD). The Primary Health Care (PHC) project in Haripur and Northern Afghanistan provides effective primary health care so as to improve the health status of women and children from disadvantaged communities. The program emphasizes comprehensive curative and preventive services. It also seeks to provide an outreach network of health promoters and providers, to encourage community participation, and to establish and strengthen health information systems. Some 115,000 refugees in Haripur and Ghazi camps in NWFP benefit from a primary health care program run directly by SC/US, which consists of eight refugee-camp basic health units and an extensive outreach network. SC/US also supports an Acute Respiratory Infection and Control of Diarrheal Disease (ARI/CDD) Project as part of the Haripur Primary Health Care program and as a program in Kabul. The primary goal is to focus on these two main causes of mortality in Afghan children by working through the existing health system to bring about simple and sustainable changes in the management of these childhood diseases.

SC/US also conducts education programming. Projects include, primary education, secondary education, adult non-formal education; and Education for Afghans Inter-Agency Initiative. The aim of the Primary Education Project in the refugee camps of Baluchistan and Haripur is to provide access to quality primary education to Afghan refugee children in refugee camps and villages. Main activities include operating 44 primary schools and 47 home-based schools, for 12,000 children in Balochistan, as well as classes for children in grades 7 and 8 in each camp. SC/US has achieved an increase in the participation of girls in primary education. It also benefits about 20,000 children in its secondary education quality improvement initative.

SC/US provides economic opportunities in Afghanistan with projects modeled on the Grameen approach. Some of these projects include craft programs in Balochistan, Islamabad, Northwest Frontier Province, Afghanistan. Some 700 women in Balochistan and 2,800 women in northern Afghanistan actively participate in the credit and savings activities.

SC/US runs Children in Crisis programs in Kabul to help children cope with the tangible and intangible effects of war. One of these projects is the Landmine Education Project which aims at ensuring that children living in high risk parts of Kabul City and in priority outlying districts, have basic knowledge of mines and are taking simple preventive steps to avoid them. Another project is the Safe Playgrounds Project in Kabul and Mazar-I-Sharif which has as its objective to construct and deploy playgrounds in order to provide a safe haven where war-affected children can play uninhibited and communities can take responsibility for supervision and maintenance. Additionally, SC/US supports a Social Reintegration of Disabled Children Project in Kabul. This program aims to help children affected by war to regain a normal childhood experience. It serves to reintegrate disabled children by insuring that they play and associate with their peers and have access to education and hope for the future.