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Significant drop in aid threatens to derail Afghanistan’s progress in education, health and women’s development

Significant drop in aid threatens to derail Afghanistan’s progress in education, health and women’s development

  • Aid falling sharply as foreign governments prepare to withdraw their troops
  • Video news release and photos available, featuring health and education projects
  • Report author and other recent visitors to Afghanistan available for interview

A new report published by Islamic Relief on March 26 warns that significant aid cuts are threatening to derail over a decade of progress in education, health care and women’s development in Afghanistan. Afghanistan in Limbo says aid is on the wane as preparations for the withdrawal of foreign troops gather pace, and urges the international community not to turn its back on the country. Islamic Relief is urging UK PM David Cameron to take a lead in rallying international support for Afghanistan as the UK prepares to host a global pledging conference in the autumn.

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future,” says Farzana Balooch of Islamic Relief Afghanistan. “The international community largely abandoned us in the 1990s after the end of the Soviet occupation – a withdrawal that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban and is now seen by many observers as a huge mistake.

“Now there are signs that we may be abandoned again as large cuts in aid threaten to cripple health, education and other services and sentence another generation to a life of poverty. We need our friends in the international community to stand by us and work with us for a brighter future.”

Afghanistan in Limbo argues that the past decade has been a period of real success for international aid to the country:

  • Numbers of children going to school have increased from barely a million to nearly 8 million
  • 46% of girls are at school, compared to just 3% 13 years ago
  • Over half the population live within an hour’s walk of a health clinic, compared to 8% in 2001
  • Child immunisation rates have tripled in under a decade, and infant mortality is down 40%.

But the report points out that aid has fallen from $894 million in 2011 to just $508 million in 2013, and less than a fifth of the UN’s humanitarian plan for 2014 has been funded so far. The UK’s contribution to the international aid effort has dropped from an average of $296m per year from 2009 to 2011, to a pledged $178m a year from 2012 to 2017.

The UN has appealed for only $406 million this year, despite the significant challenges the country still faces:

  • Afghanistan is the poorest country in Asia, with poverty killing more people than armed conflict
  • Life expectancy is just 50
  • A million under-fives are acutely malnourished
  • 10% of children don’t live to see their fifth birthday
  • Fewer than half of girls go to school, and 4.8 million children receive no formal education
  • 5.4 million people lack basic health services
  • 8.7 million people don’t have enough food or income to feed themselves adequately
  • Over a million Afghans are opium or heroin addicts, the highest rate of addiction in the world
  • Over 3 million are living in camps for displaced people or as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Islamic Relief argues that rather than cut aid, the international community should maintain aid levels and concentrate on improving aid effectiveness. This should involve:

  • Focusing more on meeting people’s basic needs and on improving health and education services and agriculture
  • Allocating aid to the most marginalised communities in the poorest parts of the country, as previously significant spending has been linked to ‘winning hearts and minds’ in the areas of greatest instability where foreign troops are stationed
  • Greater community engagement, ensuring that Afghans are more involved in developing, delivering and evaluating the aid programmes of which they are the intended beneficiaries
  • Channelling more aid through non-government organisations that have a good track record in accountable community development
  • Policies to strengthen the Afghan government to deliver services – including measures to professionalise management, devolve power to the provinces, reduce bureaucracy and protect against corruption.




For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Martin Cottingham ([email protected] / 07702-940982).


  1. The full report, Afghanistan in Limbo – New aid priorities and the funding crisis putting future progress at risk, can be downloaded from:
  2. A five-minute video news release (with accompanying script) and photographs (with accompanying captions) are available. They feature footage from a camp for displaced people in Kabul, a women’s education project in Bamyan and a drug treatment and rehabilitation centre in Balkh – all Islamic Relief projects. Low resolution photos can be found here: VNR can be viewed at: and downloaded from:
  3. Farzana Balooch, Islamic Relief Afghanistan’s Orphan Sponsorship and Child Welfare Coordinator, is available for telephone interview from Afghanistan. Martin Cottingham, Islamic Relief’s Advocacy Manager and a co-author of Afghanistan in Limbo, is available for interview in the UK along with colleagues Zia Salik and Nazia Hassan – all three have recently visited Islamic Relief projects in Afghanistan.
  4. Islamic Relief has been working in Afghanistan since 1992, and currently operates in 13 of the country’s 34 provinces. In 2013 we delivered a £1.4m programme that encompassed projects in education and vocational training, health, agriculture, orphan sponsorship, water and sanitation, emergency response and community microfinance. We employ 125 staff; all but two are Afghan and over a third are women, including four in senior positions.

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