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Frequently Asked Questions

General

What progress has USAID made in Afghanistan? 

Since 2002, the American people have provided the Afghan people with more than $17 billion dollars in development assistance.  This money has produced real results, which are highlighted in each program section of our website: Agriculture, Democracy & Governance, Economic Growth, Education, Health, Infrastructure, and Stabilization

Afghanistan has made great strides since 2002 with an elected president and a freely elected and independent minded legislature.  Millions of children, including girls, are back in school and the institutions of government have been rebuilt after being completely destroyed by war.  Each month, over one million patients visit USAID-supported health facilities, three-quarters of whom are women and children. There has been a 57% drop in infant mortality, and under five mortality has declined by 62 percent.  
 
With more than 17 billion dollars obligated on development programs since 2002, USAID provides the largest bilateral civilian assistance program to Afghanistan.  Our work continues to be a vital support to Afghanistan in its efforts to ensure economic growth led by the private sector, establish a democratic and capable state governed by the rule of law, and provide basic services for its people. 
 
In the past several years, USAID alone has built more than 605 schools, more than 620 clinics, and reconstructed more than 2,000 km of paved roads. If you combine these efforts with those of our donor community partners, the figures jump much higher.  But there is a need for thousands of more schools, clinics, and kilometers of road.  We are working hard, but it will take time.
 
There is a huge amount to be done.  It will take decades to complete the process, and that international community will continue to work hard in cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan to meet the needs of its people. 
 
Has the increased violence affected USAID projects?
 
Violence can result in work interruptions and increased costs.  The U.S. Government, however, remains committed to our support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts.  As expected, the Taliban have engaged in scattered attacks against civilian leaders, reconstruction workers, and NGOs in an attempt to show that they are gaining momentum.  But Afghan National Security Forces have been forcefully countering Taliban efforts, with support from NATO/ISAF forces. 
 

Education

(read more about our Education programs)
 
How many schools has USAID built in Afghanistan?
 
As of 2012, USAID has built or refurbished 605 schools across Afghanistan in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. 
 
How many children are enrolled in school?
 
School enrollment is at its highest in Afghanistan’s history.  Currently, there are more than eight million students in school, with an estimated 35% being girls.  The number of girls currently enrolled in school exceeds the total school enrollment under the Taliban – there were 900,000 students enrolled in school under the Taliban.
 
How much has USAID spent on education programs to date?
 
Between 2002 and 2012, USAID invested $885 million in education projects in Afghanistan.  The U.S. invested this money to expand access to basic education by training teachers, constructing and rehabilitating schools, distributing supplies, and offering accelerated learning programs to out-of-school youth, particularly girls, who were denied an education under the Taliban.  USAID is also supporting higher education and non-formal literacy and productive skills education for both youth and adults, as well as supporting capacity development for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education.
 
What are the goals of the literacy program announced by former First Lady Laura Bush in Paris?
 
In June 2008, former First Lady Laura Bush announced a program that combines basic education (literacy and math skills) with business skills and financial assistance to help Afghanistan’s poor to expand their economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas.  USAID has promised $40 million to the five-year project, with an additional $22.3 million offered from the Afghan Ministry of Education, UN-HABITAT, and partners.  A memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of the Ministry of Education, USAID, and UN-HABITAT on October 15, 2008.
 
The program will build the capacity of Afghanistan’s National Literacy Center (formerly the Women’s Teacher Training Institute) to implement new teaching methods and materials designed to assist adult learners nationwide.  In addition to teaching basic literacy and math, this project will provide training in business and vocational skills, helping people to find employment and lift themselves out of poverty.
 
USAID currently projects that over the program’s five-year span, it will reach 312,000 people, 60% of whom will be women. The program will be active in 3,120 communities in 20 provinces.
 
What are the goals of the literacy program announced by former First Lady Laura Bush in Paris?
 
In June 2008, former First Lady Laura Bush announced a program that combines basic education (literacy and math skills) with business skills and financial assistance to help Afghanistan’s poor to expand their economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas.  USAID has promised $40 million to the five-year project, with an additional $22.3 million offered from the Afghan Ministry of Education, UN-HABITAT, and partners.  A memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of the Ministry of Education, USAID, and UN-HABITAT on October 15, 2008.
 
The program will build the capacity of Afghanistan’s National Literacy Center (formerly the Women’s Teacher Training Institute) to implement new teaching methods and materials designed to assist adult learners nationwide.  In addition to teaching basic literacy and math, this project will provide training in business and vocational skills, helping people to find employment and lift themselves out of poverty.
 
USAID projected that over the program’s five-year span, it will reach 312,000 people, 60% of whom will be women. The program will be active in 3,120 communities in 20 provinces. 
 
What is the current status of USAID’s engagement with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAf)?
 
USAID was a foundinUSAID is a founding donor for AUAf, and continues to work with the university to provide Afghan students with high-quality educational opportunities. 
  • USAID provided $17.7 million to AUAf through the Asia Foundation.  
  • In June 2008, former First Lady Laura Bush announced a new grant of $42 million to be disbursed over five years.
  • USAID recently announced a new, five-year, $40 million award in support of AUAF. This support will improve the quality and relevance of the higher education system and contribute to economic and social development in Afghanistan. 

Health

(read more about our Health programs)
 
How much has USAID spent to date on health care programs?
 
Between 2002 and 2012, USAID invested more than one billion dollars into improving health care services in Afghanistan.
 
What is USAID doing to improve health services in Afghanistan?
 
Afghanistan had one of the highest mortality rates in the world – one in four children dies before the age of five and life expectancy is only 45 years for women and 47 for men.  These statistics were tragic, but thanks to the international donor community there has been progress.  Through a variety of health programs, more than 12 million people annually in 13 provinces served by USAID have better access to quality health care.  Additionally, thanks to efforts by USAID, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), and the international community, infant mortality has decreased by 57 percent and child mortality by 62 percent since 2002.  (Reported by the the Afghanistan Mortality Survey 2010).
 
USAID has prioritized provision of basic health care for rural communities with a primary focus on women and children. USAID has been working very closely with the MoPH to provide essential services to the Afghan people through programs that:
  • Deliver basic healthcare in 13 provinces through which more than one million patients, 76% of whom are women and children, receive treatment and counseling monthly from USAID-trained community healthcare workers. 
  • Train and mentor health providers and MoPH staff at the national, provincial, district, and community levels to improve the coverage and quality of health service delivery.  USAID has trained nearly 17,000 health workers (as of October 2008), including pre-service training for midwives and community health workers and in-service training for doctors, midwives, and nurses. 
  • Work to eradicate polio: Afghanistan is one of the four remaining countries in the world with live polio virus.  USAID supports the national Polio Eradication Initiative and provided $1.5 million in FY2006 to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Nearly 7 million children, or 90% of children under the age of five, have been vaccinated against polio to date. 
  • Control TB: USAID has supported tuberculosis (TB) control efforts through the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS)/ Essential Package of Hospital Services (EPHS) delivery system and provided assistance to upgrade laboratory services in the nationwide TB control program.
USAID provides ongoing technical assistance for key components of the National TB Program and engages both central and provincial managers in developing their management and leadership skills to focus on results and accountability. 
  • Expand health knowledge: USAID works with private businesses to expand distribution of health products, disseminate public health messages about issues such as safe drinking water and birth spacing, and make more products and services available to citizens in a cost-effective way. The shops benefit from the profits of the nearly 23 million health products sold to date, and more people than ever have access to needed healthcare, hygiene, and family-planning products.
 
How does USAID coordinate its health programs with other donors?
 
The international community has made a commitment to eliminate duplication of efforts and work together for cost-effective aid in Afghanistan.  In addition to USAID, there are two major international donors supporting the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan – the European Commission (EC) and the World Bank. Both the EC and the World Bank support the Afghan Ministry of Public Health in delivery of the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS).  To ensure efficient aid delivery, USAID coordinates health programs with other major donors through regularly scheduled coordination meetings, including the Consultative Group on Health and Nutrition, the Technical Advisory Group, and Quarterly Donors’ Coordination Meetings.
 
Does Afghanistan have an HIV/AIDS problem?
 
USAID recognizes the potential for HIV/AIDS to threaten the prosperity, stability, and development of Afghanistan.  At present, there are few signs of a significant HIV/AIDS crisis in Afghanistan, although there is a growing epidemic concentrated among high-risk groups.  Those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS include intravenous drug users, men who engage in risky sexual behavior, commercial sex workers, and truckers.  To help at-risk individuals, USAID has initiated a number of social and economic programs to lift these groups out of poverty and provide them with quality health care, education, and job opportunities.
 

Roads

(read more about our Infrastructure programs)
 
How many roads has USAID built in Afghanistan?
 
Between 2001 and 2007, USAID completed the construction of more than 2,000 km of paved roads and 1,100 km of gravel roads.
 
What types of roads does USAID build in Afghanistan?
 
USAID builds three kinds of roads in Afghanistan: primary roads, secondary roads and tertiary roads:
  • The primary roads, such as Kabul’s main Ring Road, are called “regional highways”, connecting Afghanistan with its neighbors and forming the largest road network in the country. 
  • USAID’s secondary roads, called “national highways”, connect the capital to Afghanistan’s provincial capitals. All regional and national highways are paved. 
  • And finally, the tertiary roads built by USAID are called “provincial roads” and “district roads” and connect district centers to other district centers and to provincial capitals. These roads are generally paved with a gravel surface.
 
How does USAID decide what type of road to build?
 
When making decisions about roads, USAID follows the guidelines established in the 2006 Road Sector Master Plan. This document, created by the Government of Afghanistan with assistance from the Asian Development Bank, establishes standards and specifications for roads and has been adopted by all major donors in the country.
 
In addition, USAID’s primary goal in road construction in Afghanistan is to meet the needs of local communities. To achieve this, USAID also consults with representatives from provincial development councils to make joint decisions about the roads, including length and type.  Together, they determine the best and most cost-effective strategy for creating roads to increase commerce, security and political stability.
 
What is the cost of building a road?
 
USAID-financed road costs vary considerably depending on road type, terrain, security costs and other factors. However, a rough average for USAID asphalt roads is $548,000 per kilometer, while gravel roads cost an average $180,000 per kilometer. USAID’s most expensive road, the 4-lane Kabul Airport road, was $1.6 million per kilometer due to road width, capacity for constant and heavy traffic and thick asphalting. In addition, the urban road required contractors to import materials and provide substantial security to stabilize the construction environment. Conversely, USAID’s least expensive road, the Shega District Road in Nangarhar province, cost USAID only $47,000 per kilometer, due to the simplicity of the terrain, availability of materials, secure environment and minimal asphalting.
 
As noted above, construction costs can vary significantly. Building in rough terrain and through unstable landforms substantially increases the price of construction, while security costs depend on the volatility of a work area. Additionally, different road types require different levels of resources. Roads designed to facilitate transport of heavy goods and higher traffic volumes receive thicker asphalting and engineering support, while district roads linking local communities need only a stabilized, gravel surface.
 
Due to the fact that costs can vary greatly depending on terrain, security and road type, any comparison of costs is best done on a unit rate basis, not per kilometer.  For instance, how much is being paid for a ton of asphalt, or a cubic meter of embankment, or cubic meter of reinforced concrete.  Our unit costs are comparable with those incurred by other donors, including the military.
 
Why does USAID use foreign contractors when they can do the same thing for less with Afghan contractors?
 
While preoccupied in decades of war, Afghan laborers lost valuable skills in the fighting and were unable to keep up-to-date on advances in construction techniques.  USAID seeks to rebuild this capacity by hiring professional contractors who will pass on their modern expertise to the Afghan employees who make up at least 80% of their project staff.  This ensures the quality of the roads while simultaneously imparting modern skills to the people of Afghanistan, empowering them to maintain the roads and building their capacity to independently initiate future projects. 
 
Already, the capacity of Afghan contractors has increased rapidly. Today, over half of USAID’s current contracts are being implemented by Afghan contractors, and the percentage is expected to increase. The primary contractor on the final section of the Gardez – Khost road is an Afghan contractor. 
 
How long does it take to build a road? 
 
Depending on the road’s type, size and terrain, construction can take between 18 and 24 months. A large portion of this time is invested in laying a solid foundation for construction, including terrain studies, design, procurement and mobilization. In general, large foreign contractors have the capacity to complete between 3 to 5 kms per month, while local contractors average between .05 and 2 kms per month. 
 
What is the typical lifespan of a road?              
 
The life cycle of a road depends on a number of factors, including traffic volumes, climate and maintenance. If a USAID road is properly maintained, the asphalt roads will last 10 years before requiring an overlay, while gravel roads need to be re-graveled every 5 years.
 
Who maintains the roads built by USAID?
 
The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is striving to establish a road maintenance system and sustainable financing. In the interim, it requested all donors to maintain the roads they have rehabilitated for a three year period.  USAID agreed to maintain 1600kms of Regional and National Highways it has constructed/rehabilitated. USAID has committed $33 million to maintain the roads (including emergency repairs) for a period of three years, beginning January 08.
 
How does USAID measure the social and economic impact of a road? 
 
USAID tries to measure the social and economic impact of a road in terms of reduced vehicle costs, including lower transport costs (e.g. for agricultural production to/from markets), travel times and passenger fares. For example, a new connector road constructed in the northern city of Faizabad resulted in a 67% decrease in travel times and a 40% reduction in travel costs. Other considerations are an increase in the number of businesses, increased volume of traffic and additional freight moving along the road. 
 
Successful roads will also result in a stronger society, giving communities increased access to health, education, markets and government services.

 

Last updated: July 10, 2014

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