Development News from Afghanistan

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Little evidence aid working in Afghanistan: group

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Wed. Aug. 29 2007 10:39 PM ET

CTV.ca News

There is little evidence that Canadian aid in Afghanistan is helping those who desperately need it, including malnourished children in Kandahar’s hospital, according to a report by The Senlis Council.

The international policy think tank was invited to Afghanistan this month by the Canadian International Development Agency, to see first-hand how Ottawa was directing its funds.

But Senlis president Norine MacDonald, also a Canadian lawyer, said it was difficult to trace spending as outlined by the agency.

The Council visited the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, but found little evidence Canadian aid money had been used as CIDA claimed.

The group found no trace of the Maternal Waiting Home project, listed by CIDA as one of the agency’s projects.

Meanwhile, the ward for starving children “not only still exists but is horribly over-crowded,” according to the report. The group found 28 children sharing eight beds in one of the ward’s rooms.

The lack of beds was compounded by a shortage of basic medical equipment, while the staff were “repeatedly asking for more equipment, more training, and more assistance.”

The hospital also has no air-conditioning, heating or ventilation.

“The suffering of the Afghan people in Kandahar not only neglects our humanitarian obligations to our allies in Kandahar, it creates a climate that fuels the insurgency and undermines the already dangerous work of Canada’s military in this hostile war zone,” the report says.

However, Senlis did say that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has put a pharmacy in the hospital, which gives free medicine to patients.

The ICRC has also paid for a surgeon to develop a triage system for incoming patients, and will fund an obstetrician to help train staff.

Outside the hospital, Senlis members travelled to the construction site of a new bridge funded by CIDA. But workers told the group they had no accident or medical insurance, and footage of the visit appears to show children working on the bridge.

Senlis also raised concerns about the distribution of food to starving people in Kandahar.

According to CIDA, the agency has given out thousands of tons of food, but Senlis said it was “not able to obtain information on any specific food distribution points so as to validate this claim.”

Canada’s new development minister, Bev Oda, called the findings overly simplistic. But in an interview with CTV News, she didn’t dismiss the report.

“I can’t say whether they’re right or they’re wrong,” she said.

The Canadian government is giving more than $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next 10 years for security, governance and rebuilding.

A CIDA official, speaking on background, told CP the agency has given $3 million to the ICRC for improvements to Mirwais Hospital, and has committed a further $10 million.

The same official added that more than 200,000 Afghans have received food aid since December, according to the World Food Program.

Carrie Vandewint, a policy adviser for World Vision Canada, said Senlis focused on isolated cases of extreme need, while ignoring success stories.

Senlis gets financial supported from 12 European foundations, and has made headlines in the past for its criticism of a U.S.-led push to destroy Afghanistan’s poppy crops to stop the country’s heroin trade. The group said a better solution would be to cultivate the flowers for medicinal-use morphine tablets.

That suggestion prompted reports Sensil was backed by the pharmaceutical industry, which the group has denied.

With a report by CTV’s Graham Richardson in Ottawa

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Written by afghandevnews

August 29, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Aid

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