As the world marks International Youth Day on August 12, many in Afghanistan, especially the youth, strive to find better ways to make a prosperous future for themselves. According to the United Nations Population Fund, about 63 percent of Afghans are under 25 years of age, reflecting a steep pyramid age structure whereby a large cohort of young people is slowly emerging. Yet, young people in Afghanistan face significant challenges in health, education, employment, and gender inequality.
To tackle these challenges, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled is targeting youth with low education in rural and semi-urban areas through a pilot micro-grants scheme to support aspiring entrepreneurs in the face of low growth and dim job creation prospects in the private sector. The scheme is implemented under the Non-Formal Approach to Training, Education, and Jobs in Afghanistan (NATEJA) project financed by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).
When I saw Fariha, 23, during her selection interview for the micro-grant scheme, she was sceptical of receiving any government support, but confident about her beauty salon idea. It was a dream come true when she got the news of the micro-grant of $500. Fariha had learnt her skills first as a trainee at a beauty salon. After four years working there, she used the grant money to invest in the business and is now a partner and manager in the salon. “I did not earn enough as a trainee, but now I am a partner. It is a good job and it is getting better,” she says.
As a NATEJA grantee, Fariha attended a business training course to learn basic accounting, marketing, and key tips to start a business as a woman. She was also very happy to receive a pictorial, practical, and illustrative business start-up booklet at the training, given her low level of education.
Although I have extensive project management experience in Daykundi Province, the scale and impact of the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition (SEHAT) Program is truly inspiring—for example, the 39 centers that deliver the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) together serve over 77,000 outpatients per month. In October 2016, these centers managed the delivery of 615 babies, with as many as 69 deliveries in Temran Basic Health Center alone.
In fact, when it comes to female health, SEHAT has ensured that there is at least one female staff member in every health center. This has partly been possible because of the successful implementation of community-level education programs, such as the Community Midwifery Education (CME) and Community Health Nursing Education (CHNE). The program has also strengthened community-based health care by setting up health Shuras (councils) in all locations covered by SEHAT and implemented specific controls on qualifications and credentials of health workers.
SEHAT is a program of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), in partnership with multiple donors. An NGO, PU-AMI, was contracted by MoPH between 2013 and June 2017 to deliver BPHS in Daykundi, in line with national health goals outlined by the ministry. These goals include reducing mother and child deaths and improving child health and nutrition. Thus, the program focuses on increasing access, building capacity, strengthening coordination, promoting use of monitoring and evaluation data, and enabling better support for pharmaceutical supplies.
Afghanistan is not exactly an easy place to undertake a rigorous study on the ease of doing business. And collecting primary data for a micro-based study in Kabul and several Afghan provinces can be a daunting task. Just how daunting is underscored by the fact that the country conducted its most recent census almost 40 years ago, in 1979. Vast tracts of the country remain unsafe and many of its provinces are inaccessible.
Despite the security challenges, our experience from the recently launched Subnational Doing Business in Afghanistan report shows that the barriers to collecting micro data are not insurmountable. The data and related findings can help guide business reforms toward the kind of smart regulations that are imperative for attracting private sector investment to the capital city and beyond. A regulatory environment that enables private enterprise, especially small and medium firms, to function and be creative boosts job creation and is, therefore, good for the economy.
The report, the first of its kind in Afghanistan, benchmarks Kabul and the provinces of Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar across four Doing Business indicators: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity and Registering Property.
The key takeways?
Kabul leads in two of the areas measured, Starting a Business and Getting Electricity. Kandahar ranks first in Dealing with Construction Permits and Registering Property, while Balkh comes in second in all four areas measured by the report.
Regulatory quality and efficiency vary considerably among the five locations. Rolling out reforms already implemented in Kabul across all of Afghanistan would improve the business environment for entrepreneurs in the provinces.
- By adopting all the good practices, Afghanistan could move up 11 places in the global Doing Business ranking, to 172.
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- Conflict and Fragility; fragile and conflict affected states; fragile states; fragility; FCV; Afghanistan; doing business; ease of doing business; private enterprise; entrepreneurship; business regulations;
The availability of disaster risk information is particularly important for a fragile state like Afghanistan where 4 out of 5 people rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. To strengthen resilience, investments in Afghanistan need to incorporate information on natural hazards in their planning, design and implementation. To help support government efforts, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), in close cooperation with the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), recently produced a comprehensive multi-hazard assessment level and risk profile, documenting information on current and future risk from fluvial and flash floods, droughts, landslides, snow avalanches and seismic hazards. The main findings, methodology and expected outcomes were recently discussed and presented to the Disaster Risk Management community of practice within the World Bank Group. A number of takeaways from the discussion are presented below:
What is Afghanistan’s risk profile and vulnerability?
- Flooding is the most frequent natural hazard historically, causing average annual damage estimated at $54 million; large flood episodes can cause over $500 million in damage
- Historically, earthquakes have caused the most fatalities, killing more than 10,000 people since 1980
- 3 million people are at risk from very high or high landslide hazard
- Droughts have affected 6.5 million people since 2000; an extreme drought could cause an estimated $3 billion in agricultural losses, and lead to severe food shortages across the country;
- An estimated 10,000 km of roads (15 percent of all roads) are exposed to avalanches, including key transport routes like the Salang Pass
Not so long ago, 15 years to be exact, I remember when people in the districts of Kandahar used animals to transport their agricultural harvest to the provincial center. There were a few, if any, motorable roads, and we had a limited number of health centers and schools in the province. Most of the infrastructure laid in ruins. But worst of all, the economic condition of the average Afghan was quite bad with little or no access to income, opportunities, and facilities.
Things have changed since 2003. While many development projects have been implemented in Kandahar Province, the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) has been one of the most popular and high impact. Running from 2003 to 2016, NSP was implemented in 16 of 17 districts and set up 1,952 Community Development Councils (CDCs), which implemented over 3,300 projects.
In Kandahar, communities are very conservative, and, overall, the province is highly traditional. When the program was launched, people in Kandahar were not interested in establishing CDCs through holding elections at the village level.
, many from Pakistan and Iran. In 2016 alone, the country welcomed 600,000 returnees. UNHCR predicts another 500,000 to 700,000 returnees by the end of 2017.
On top of that, In a country of over 30 million people, there is an estimated 1-2 million of displaced population (UN-OCHA, UNHCR, IOM).
One can only imagine how much pressure the displacement crisis is putting on the cities and communities hosting refugees and returnees—starting with the challenge of providing basic services such as water and housing, let alone jobs and security.
In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Lead Social Development Specialist Janmejay Singh will unpack the challenge and share —through Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project and other World Bank-supported activities.
In Afghanistan, decades of violence, common discriminatory practices, and cultural barriers, including restrictions on mobility, have denied women job opportunities and left them severely underrepresented in all sectors of society.
Despite considerable achievements in the last decade, such as the national Constitution guaranteeing equal rights as well as increased enrollment in public schools and universities, achieving gender equality will require widespread social changes.
Yet, change is happening and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), Afghanistan’s national power utility, is showing the way.
With a workforce of about 7,000, the company employs only 218 women, most of whom at a junior support level. However, under the leadership of its new CEO, DABS management has committed to promoting gender equality.
The Planning and Capacity Support Project of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank, is helping DABS deliver on that commitment. The project organized awareness sessions for DABS staff on gender-related issues and provided specialized training to female employees. DABS has committed to providing internships to female university graduates to ensure women can find job opportunities and fully participate in the energy sector.
Realizing that the majority of its female staff lacked the confidence to compete with men, DABS is facilitating access to new job opportunities for women employees and has taken steps to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization.
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- Conflict and Fragility; fragile and conflict affected states; fragile states; fragility; FCV
- Sustainable Communities
Afghanistan is undergoing a rapid urban transition. While the current share of its population living in cities is comparatively low (25.8 percent in 2014 compared to 32.6 percent across South Asia), Afghanistan’s urbanization rate is among the highest in the region. Its urban population is growing at 5 percent annually, more than twice the regional average.
The country’s urbanization transition is impacted by Afghanistan’s history of conflict and fragility, which presents additional challenges for urban areas. Cities are struggling to accommodate increasing numbers of persons seeking security, shelter, and jobs. These newcomers include internally displaced persons, returning refugees, as well as those leaving rural agricultural employment and seeking service-based jobs in urban areas. This migration will continue for a generation; by 2060, half of all Afghans will live in cities, which means that roughly 15 million people will be moving to cities in the next 40 years.
Over the same time period, the country will also see a substantial increase in demand for employment as slightly more than half of the current population is aged 15 or younger and will soon be entering the workforce for years to come.
Against this background, Afghanistan will have to leverage and manage its urban transition to ensure that cities can provide job opportunities, housing, and improved quality of life to their citizens. Recognizing the important challenges, the Afghan government introduced the Urban National Priority Program (U-NPP) in 2016. It provides policy guidance and investments in support of municipal governance, improved access to basic services, and vibrant urban economies for the next 10 years.
As the world marks World Refugee Day on June 20, we must remember that it is not only the refugee crisis that is hampering development efforts in many countries. There is also a silent emerging crisis of people driven from their homes to another part of their own country, people known as internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is a growing issue that several countries are facing, with enormous social and political pressures to address.
In Afghanistan, there are an estimated 1.2 million people who are internally displaced because of insecurity or are being forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters. This is in addition to the nearly 6 million people who have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, making one in five Afghans a returnee. In 2016, more than 620,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan alone.
The massive influx of returnees and IDPs is placing tremendous pressure on Afghanistan’s already fragile social and economic infrastructure and is a threat to regional stability.
When I first took up my position as Country Director of the World Bank for Afghanistan, I was struck by the plight of returnees and IDPs and by how hard-pressed the Afghan government was in dealing with them. During my first days in office, back in November 2016, I visited a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) center on the outskirts of Kabul. The center serves as the first entry point for returnees where they can receive assistance—including cash—and attend awareness and safety sessions to help them better integrate in their new communities.
- World Refugee Day 2017
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- forced displacement
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- fragile and conflict affected states
- Conflict and Fragility
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- World Refugee Day
In Afghanistan violence is a daily fact of life. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan released their 2016 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Afghanistan in February, which documented 11,418 casualties in 2016, a 3% increase since 2015, including 3,498 deaths. Child casualties rose by almost a quarter (24%)—to 923 killed and 2,589 wounded. As a result, there are always lots of questions about how you deliver services in parts of the world like Afghanistan that are affected by ongoing, day to day violence.
Increasingly we live in a world where poverty and violence are deeply interconnected, and if we are to affect the former we have to deal with the latter. But both services and violence come in so many different forms that disentangling the relationship is tough. What works in one context may not work in another. It is too easy to say that nongovernmental organizations are best at delivering services in situations where state authority is contested, just as it may be false to suggest that state delivery of services is always likely to build state legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. The relationships between service delivery and violent conflict are more nuanced than this on the ground and require context-specific analyses that try to understand the nature of the political settlements around conflict, what drives violence and what is the nature of the bargains being struck by local and national elites that either allow or block service delivery.
Well, we have recently tried to do this in a new publication which has just come out, called “Social Service Delivery in Violent Contexts: Achieving Results Against the Odds”. The report tries to disentangle what works and what doesn’t based on research in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. It probes how social service delivery is affected by violent conflict and what the critical factors that make or break successful delivery are.