What We Are Doing

Renewed commitment to improve the lives of Afghanistan children 5 Dec 2014

The UK and Afghanistan co-hosted the London Conference on Afghanistan (LCA) on 4 December 2014 where 59 countries reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Afghanistan to become a secure and stable nation after drawdown of foreign military forces is completed at the end of the year. The end-of-year conference comes at a critical time, since 2014 saw both the election of a new Afghan President, as well as marking the end of the international combat mission in Afghanistan.

‘Over the last decade, Afghanistan has seen enormous development gains, particularly in health and in education.  But these gains are at risk of being lost if donors and implementing agencies do not ensure that development assistance is sustained,’ says Ana Locsin, Save the Children’s Afghanistan country director.

‘Afghanistan is still very reliant on the support of foreign donors to deliver basic services across the country and it is feared that the withdrawal of foreign troops may prompt possible declines in aid that could leave the country facing tough budget constraints.’

‘It is very important that donors continue to support the Basic Package of Health Services, the main channel to deliver primary health care in Afghanistan. The nutrition component of the Basic Package of Health Services needs to be fully funded. We need to bring down malnutrition rates in the coming years and the Afghan Ministry of Health needs the support of all development partners to make some significant progress.’ adds Locsin.

Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976. Despite progress to reduce child mortality, one in ten Afghan children still die before the age of five, and skilled health personnel attend only 40% of births. Malnutrition is also a particular concern since 59% of Afghan children face stunted growth, and malnutrition reduction measures have been very slow to take effect.

From the London Conference, Save the Children asked for renewed commitment, ambition and momentum to sustain and further increase improvements in the lives of Afghan children through:

  • Raising the profile of the progress made over the last decade, especially in the area of health
  • Highlighting that these progress remain fragile and dependent on sustained foreign donors’ support
  • Ensuring commitments from donors for sufficient, targeted, predictable and long-term funding
  • Asking from the new Afghan government a renewed commitment to deliver services in a transparent and accountable way, with a focus on the poorest and most marginalised communities.

Result of the London Conference on Afghanistan 2014

In his speech, President Ashraf Ghani outlined steps he has already taken to deliver on his ambitious agenda to reform Afghanistan and deliver economic security by tackling corruption, maintaining the progress made on national security and placing women’s and civil rights at the heart of the country’s future prosperity. The UK government will be running more programs in Afghanistan and in the next 3 years, amongst other things, plans to:

  • provide greater access to health services, with at least 58% of births attended by skilled attendants and 86% of health facilities staffed by at least 1 female health worker by 2018
  • provide support for emergency health and nutrition programmes for more than 440,000 people a year, with a focus on girls and women.

As a build up to the conference, Save the Children conducted coordinated advocacy events in Brussels, Tokyo and Kabul as well as collaborated with other civil society members, working in Afghanistan, to highlight the needs of mothers and children on a global platform. We welcome the commitment of the Afghan and UK governments to social development and of key donors to remain engaged in Afghanistan. We need to ensure that these commitments are for the long-term, as considerable challenges remain to further reduce child mortality.

Read the official communique here.

A petition for access to health care

In Bamyan city, where winters are harsh and affect children and old people the most, the mobile health team from the provincial hospital has stopped visiting. Mohammed Matin, the community health worker says: “We knew that with the winter ahead we would have more diseases.” So the health shura decided to use its new skills to address the problem. In August 2012, the members had received training from Save the Children under the Local to Global project. The project had taught the shura members how to identify health problems and how to try and address them with higher authorities.
To have health care coming to their village, the shura members say, is crucial to the survival of the villagers. The village is 12 kilometers from the main asphalt road. The valley road is muddy at this season and when it snows it is impassable. There are only two vehicles that provide public transport and the commute is very expensive for the people living in Bamyan. 
 
Mohammed Matin wrote a petition to have the mobile clinic start coming again and submitted the proposal to the Provincial Health Directorate. The petition reached Dr. Rahana Haidary who says there were more petitions of late, she says. In the past, communities never addressed her or her predecessors directly. But she sees that things start to change since NGOs have started working with communities, empowering them to voice their concerns and address their needs. Dr. Rahana is happy to get petitions. They help her push for better health care for Bamyan at higher levels. She passes them on to the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul where decisions about health facilities are made.
 
Save the Children's way of working closely with people on their own terms has enabled us to deliver lasting change to tens of thousands of children in the country. This commitment shown by President Ghani to improve the Afghan future and unprecedented support shown by 59 countries to improve the lives of Afghan children is commendable.