Has The UN Helped Afghans?

One aspect of the UN mission has historically been to improve conditions in global conflict zones. Efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, a nation plagued by three decades of war, an inefficient government, ineffective security and an abysmal record of human rights and corruption, is a daunting task.

Numerous UN aid relief programs help Afghans including the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Program (UNDP) and the World Health Organization. However following 9/11 and the US-led NATO invasion, some Afghans have resisted the presence of foreigners on their soil which has inhibited the UN’s ability to administer aid. A decade after the invasion, the situation has begun to improve and UN staff have expanded programs throughout the country.

Specifically, the UN has been very effective in terms of supporting and funding education, health, environmental protection, agriculture development, employment, human resource development, reconstruction of public administration, technical cooperation, peace building and reintegration, economic revitalization, private sector development, women empowerment and humanitarian aid. This in turn has vastly reduced poverty, although poverty and illiteracy remain crucial challenges.

UN educational assistance has helped build and reform schools. Both boys and girls are now receiving the opportunity to get an education. While many challenges persist within the more rural and traditional Afghan families, the UN is helping the government make significant changes.

Health has also improved with UN help. In 2001, one-quarter of all Afghan children were dying of preventable diseases before the age of five. Female Afghans were nearly five times more likely to die in childbirth than in other developing countries. However UN efforts have dramatically enhanced Afghans by providing financial and technical support to the Ministry of Public Health to deliver the necessary health services to rural areas.

The UN has been successful in sharing agricultural techniques and educating Afghan farmers. Technical assistance has also helped teach and train young Afghans to become productive members of society and aid the government. The UNDP has recruited nearly thirty percent of the managerial level labor force for the General Directorate of Budget, which is one of two general directorates within the Ministry of Finance, to contribute in the national budget planning, execution and reporting.

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Therefore, Afghans have benefited from UN aid and help. However, in spite of these accomplishments, several challenges remain including coping with a limited number of capable public servants, bypassing restrictions on freedom of movement for UN staff, overcoming the deficit in coordination between Afghan institutions and the UN, tackling corruption within the government and bridging the cultural gap between Western aid workers and Afghan civilians.

With continued UN assistance and a genuine commitment for realistic change and reform in Kabul, a positively profound impact will remain with Afghans.

This article first appeared on October 3, 2012.

Ehsan Ullah was educated at the IQRA University in Pakistan and has worked with many national and international organizations including Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), Ministry of Finance (UNDP) and BRAC Afghanistan.