Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Miriam has only three children; although she has just given birth to her sixth child, two other infants died within days of birth.  However, this birth was different from the previous ones.  Miriam and her female relatives have learned from the local female community health worker (CHW) about the importance of keeping the baby warm.

In the past 30 years, Afghanistan has seen a number of interrelated and long-running conflicts.  Most Afghan families have lost at least one member as a result.  In many cases, that person was the only source of income for the family.  In fact, according to “Beyond 9/11,” a US-based nonprofit that provides financial support to Afghan widows and children, Afghanistan has one of the highest percentages of widowed females in the world: five percent of the country’s 30 million people.

Eighty-nine young people, including 40 young women, participated in the 2010 Afghanistan Youth Parliament (AYP) session held in June 2010.  The three day event, organized by Afghanistan’s National Assembly with the USAID Afghanistan Parliamentary Assistance Project (APAP), convened at Parliament.  The agenda focused on conflict management in Afghanistan, while also debating social issues, such as the prohibitive cost of Afghan marriages and how it impacts the youth.

In Afghanistan, serious power shortages have prompted a return to traditional biomass and imported hydrocarbon fuels for lighting, cooking and heating.  Restoration and upgrading of micro hydropower plants seems to be a better solution.  However, there is a lack of quality turbine manufacturing capacity and qualified experts needed to achieve this.  Recently, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) supported by the USAID’s Afghanistan Clean Energy Program (ACEP) held a workshop for Afghan turbine manufacturers to identify and address key challenges and constraints faced in this sector.

Quality water has long been an issue in Afghanistan.  To improve water quality and the way its water utility operates, the Mazar-i Sharif Strategic Business Unit (MSBU) of the Afghan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Company changed from a state-owned department to a private company in order to transform provincial water departments into commercially viable entities.

To the residents of Chaharikar, the capital of Parwan Province, blackouts were a common occurrence.  With an estimated population of more than 100,000, the city received its power from a small 2.4-megawatt hydropower plant.  Demand for electricity was approximately five times what the plant could provide.  Because the power plant relied on water to generate power, there was a constant battle between the agricultural sector and the power plant for the use of the precious resource.  It was clear that another power source was needed to provide Chaharikar’s residents and businesses with electricity.

Decades of war, harsh living conditions, and neglect due to extreme poverty and instability have left the country’s infrastructure in rubble and decay.  Roads in many parts of the country have never existed due to its remoteness.  The lack of regional, provincial, and national conduits has had a significant impact on Afghanistan’s lagging development.

In Afghanistan, electricity is ensuring better lives and brighter smiles.  When it opened in March 2007, the Kabul Medical University Dentistry Teaching Clinic was stocked with state-of-the art lab equipment, but faced a major problem: Electricity, needed to power lights and machinery, was scarce and unreliable.

Perched high in the mountains on the border with China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, Afghanistan’s Wakhan District seems like the end of the world to most people.  To 12-year-old Seema, however, it is her world and she wants to protect it.

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Last updated: January 05, 2015