The difficult task of securing stable peace
Life for people in Afghanistan has been marked for more than 20 years by war and civil war. Even after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the country has yet to find peace. Anti-government forces threaten the peaceful development and success of the reconstruction. KfW has supported the Afghan government since 2002 with the difficult task of securing a stable freedom as well as building a safe life that is worth living for the people in the country. Specifically, improving the supply of energy, clean water and medical services and promoting sustainable economic development – in spite of the tense security situation.
Clean water – easily accessible and affordable for all. Most people in Afghanistan can only dream of this internationally recognised human right, particularly in rural areas. But even in the capital city of Kabul, only one in every five people has access to clean drinking water. Most people are forced to buy water from tankers to meet their daily needs for drinking, cooking and washing. This is not only expensive, the water is frequently contaminated too. Water is also drawn from traditional shallow wells, but more and more frequently they dry out, are too salty or are infected with bacteria. The result is diarrhoeal diseases, especially for children. The child mortality rate in Afghanistan is one of the highest worldwide.
This is why KfW focuses particularly on developing the urban water supply in Kabul. The aim here is to make fresh water available from the tap around the corner for more than one million people – reliably, every day. To this end KfW is not only active in the capital; it also finances the construction of deep wells, water containers and piping as well the installation of house connections in northern cities.
The thirst for education remains high in Afghanistan. A great deal has been achieved in Afghan education since the end of the Taliban rule: girls and women are no longer excluded from schools and universities. Thousands of schools and other educational institutions have been built and equipped. Yet the demand still far outstrips supply. The Afghan government intends to continue investing in the construction of schools and press ahead with the training of teachers, principally female teachers. Only one quarter of all the teachers are currently even qualified for teaching.
Above all there is a lack of vocational schools in the country. Around 400,000 young men and women stream onto the labour market every year. Not only must jobs be found for them in the long term, but first of all training places. Thus KfW is financing the construction of additional primary schools as well as the development of infrastructure for vocational training. This is also intended to benefit young women in particular, because they can only attend the vocational schools that are often located far from their homes if there are hostels available with completely separate sections for women. In the few vocational schools that currently even exist in the country, this is often not the case.
Electricity: this means being able to keep food in cold storages, obtaining information by TV or the Internet, or even just being able to charge a mobile phone. Things we take for granted that people in Afghanistan cannot. This is because most rural areas as well as many parts even of larger cities have so far not been connected to the public electricity supply. And where distribution networks are in place, they are faulty and often just cobbled together. Everyday life in the cities is marked by power cuts. The few power plants in the country generally only use a fraction of their potential output, while the old hydropower plants imply a serious flooding risk as their ailing dams are no longer safe.
Electricity makes life easier. However, having a safe and reliable energy supply is the key foundation to the sustainable economic development of a country. Diesel generators that many people get by with in Afghanistan do not offer an alternative here. They are expensive and pollute the environment. This is why KfW is supporting the Afghan government in expanding the electricity network, constructing modern transformer and transmission lines and rehabilitating old hydropower plants. The outcome is that roughly two million people are already benefiting from the improved electricity supply.
Sound companies, good training places and jobs as well as secure income – a stable economy is also needed for a stable Afghanistan. In turn, sustainable economic growth requires solid infrastructure: ranging from networked transport routes to easily accessible financial services. So far both have been lacking in Afghanistan, which is why KfW has promoted them: the establishment of the first micro financing bank that has already supported the investments of almost 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses, and the construction of streets, bridges and rural roads.
Even until 2013, Masar-e-Sharif, a key trading hub in the north and the fourth largest city in Afghanistan, was not accessible in the winter or when the snow melted. And for the rest of the year the only option was a laborious, time-consuming journey with a car suitable for off-roading. New transport links have now been built here and existing roads strengthened. This facilitates and secures access to hospitals, schools and markets, whilst also stimulating trade. On behalf of Germany's Federal Foreign Office, KfW has supported the construction of an airport in Masar-e-Sharif, too. Direct flights to neighbouring countries and to Turkey have already started.
You are well-advised not to fall ill in Afghanistan because outside the capital city of Kabul in particular there is a lack of hospitals and small health-care units. The few that do exist are mostly old and poorly equipped. They also cover a huge catchment area and have to provide medical services for hundreds of thousands of people from neighbouring provinces. Afghanistan has made significant progress in numerous areas in recent years, many people now have running water and electricity in Kabul and in the larger cities in the north, while children learn in new and well-equipped schools. But in terms of the health of the local population, Afghanistan still languishes in last place by global comparison. Life expectancy is 48 years, and one in every seven children dies before their fifth birthday.
Thus KfW is increasingly committed to building new hospitals and medical centres in the northern provinces, equipping them appropriately and raising management to a professional level. This is not only of direct benefit for the people, better health care is a crucial prerequisite for reducing poverty throughout Afghanistan.
There cannot be a stable country if the people do not trust their government. This includes the realisation that the state guarantees elementary social services such as water, energy or medical services. A realisation that people in Afghanistan have rarely experienced for three decades, even though the necessary structures for this – right down to municipal level – have been created since the end of the Taliban regime in 2001. In the provinces and districts, however, the Afghan state still does not have the capacity and often the basic infrastructure to take responsibility for its citizens. Yet where the government is perceived to be powerless, corrupt or even inexistent, this tends to be a breeding ground for insurgency, particularly in the inaccessible border regions.
Here, where state-funded services are barely available, this is precisely where KfW focuses on laying the foundations for more stability with cross-border non-governmental development cooperation. To this end it funds advanced training in public administrations and promotes the development of key infrastructure, among other things. This is intended to bring about a significant improvement in state services, while the population should regain their confidence in the legitimacy and functioning of state bodies.