Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2006 6:29 am Post subject: AKDN & Prince of Wales Team up
Kabul should have restored to it the dignity lost over the past 25 years
Two efforts are now being made to rescue the old city from the planners' final solution (both supported by the president, Hamid Karzai). One, financed by the Aga Khan Foundation, is restoring lanes, houses and shops in the old town south of the river. In the alleys beyond the bird market of Ka Farushi (where you buy fighting quails), mud buildings have been restored with jutting upper storeys and intricate wooden screens. Dirt streets have been paved. Courtyards, shrines and playgrounds grace what is still a poor district. Here it is possible to feel Afghanistan.
More challenging is the neighbourhood on the opposite bank of the river, Murad Khane. Behind a quarter crammed with metal and craft workshops, the land is two-thirds flattened and supposedly expropriated by the city for clearance. Aerial photographs of Murad Khane in 1980 and 2004 are like those of Coventry before and after the blitz. Remaining houses and mosques are like temples on the moon, with exotic names such as the Great Serai, the House of Columns, the House of Peacocks and the Blue House. Faces peer from the depths, as if wondering whether a visitor presages a gun or a bulldozer.
A British charity run by an energetic former diplomat, Rory Stewart, is struggling to help Kabul avoid Coventry's mistake in destroying whatever the bombs left standing. Under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, his Turquoise Mountain Foundation is trying to persuade the owners of some 30 surviving buildings to accept free restoration. The remaining sites would then be rebuilt in traditional style. Such conservation would not be ersatz antiquarianism but merely use appropriate materials to rescue a neighbourhood whose character should be as critical to old Kabul as saving Covent Garden was to London's West End. Murad Khane is on the brink of total disaster or exhilarating renewal.
Undaunted, Bamiyan Province Ponders Tourism Possibilities
March 7, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Afghanistan, Aga Khan Foundation, Asia.
Aunohita Mojumdar 3/06/09
In her home village in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province, Bibi Khala welcomes the occasional visitor to her home with hot tea and homemade butter and bread. Her infrequent guests usually are interested in enjoying one of the world’s most stunning natural landscapes: the nearby lakes of Band-i Amir. As part of Afghanistan’s unwritten tradition of hospitality, Bibi does not charge guests for their visits. But if Bamiyan’s new eco-tourism project achieves its objective, she one day may find herself operating a bed-and-breakfast.
Investing in tourism at a time when most predict increasing violence in Afghanistan may seem counter-intuitive. But officials and non-governmental organization activists in Afghanistan’s central province of Bamiyan are doing exactly that. They say they are determined not to let development be held hostage to the ’gloom-and-doom’ scenario facing most of the country. The province, which recently received a grant of $1.2 million from New Zealand’s government, has launched an eco-tourism development initiative that hopes to build a sustainable visitor environment, putting the livelihood of the people at the centre of the policy. (New Zealand troops maintain a small military outpost in the province).
Implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in coordination with the provincial government, the project seeks to ensure preservation of the region’s unique natural and cultural heritage while helping locals enhance their skills to meet the demands of visiting tourists. Following the successful model of community-based tourism it has implemented in other areas of Central Asia, the AKF is focusing on capacity building, enhancing local handicraft production and constructing basic facilities for travelers. This could range from installing the most basic roadside hostels to encouraging investment in luxury accommodation.
Officials say Bamiyan will be connected to Kabul by a new road in three years. For Bamiyan residents, that is an exciting prospect and a working timeline.
via EurasiaNet Civil Society - Afghanistan: Undaunted, Bamiyan Province Ponders Tourism Possibilities.
Locals trained by an NGO gather to scrutinize officials' books.
By Anand Gopal | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the March 25, 2009 edition
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Kalan Gazar, Afghanistan - In this remote area amid the rough-hewn mountains of northern Afghanistan, a man gingerly steps forward at a village assembly.
"Why did you spend so much money on cement?" he asks village leaders – the first time he has so openly questioned authority.
They check their records and reply: "The cement is high quality, and it was the best deal we could find."
The man sits back down, apparently satisfied.
This bland exchange – one of many at a meeting where local officials must defend their use of public funds – is part of a ground-breaking program to bring accountability to a nation ranked one of five most corrupt by Transparency International, a corruption watchdog. The problem extends from top officials to local village leaders, and it's fueling anger at the government and building support for the insurgency.
Now, villagers trained by an international nonprofit are tackling corruption at the local level through "social audits." They gather to inspect the books of shuras, or elected councils, that oversee many villages and receive funds from the government and NGOs to undertake development projects. In many villages that uncover corruption, residents voted their shuras out in subsequent elections.
"For the first time, we feel like we have some control in our lives," says one villager, Rahimah, who like many Afghans has only one name. "We can finally hold our leaders accountable."
"It used to be that our shura would get money and we'd have no idea what happened to it," says Begum, another villager here in Kalan Gazar, in northern Baghlan Province. In some areas, money earmarked for a development project had simply vanished.
Learning to play accountant
To help build Afghans' capacity in dealing with such problems, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) introduced the idea of social audits – meetings that scrutinize the books of the village council – in hundreds of villages.
The villagers select a "social audit committee," made up of those whom the community deems the most honest and industrious. AKDN then trains the committee on how to inspect the shura's financial transactions – the training is needed because many villagers are illiterate or have never examined financial dealings before.
Committee members follow the money trail, tracking down receipts, interviewing laborers, and grilling shura members. Their efforts culminate in a village-wide assembly where committee members present their findings, then invite members of the community to ask questions of the shura or levy allegations. The assembly closes after the village votes on whether they are satisfied with the shura's dealings.
"This process is crucial to bringing a vibrant democracy to Afghanistan," says Sujeet Sarkar, head of the AKDN's Local Governance Program.
The village shura receive one-time grants for development projects from the government, so thus far the social audits have taken place once in each participating village.
Aga Khan Council celebrates Eid Miladun Nabi in Kabul
March 27, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Afghanistan, Asia, Council sponsored.
8 March 2009 Pajhwok Afghan News
By: Frozan Rahmani
KABUL March 08, 2009 (PAN) — Hundreds of religious scholars and people participated in the religious ceremony of celebration of Eid Miladun Nabi of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) which was organized by Agha Khan Council.
Speakers highlighted various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet and not only termed it a role model for all Muslims but a blessing for entire humanity.
Mubariz Rashidi, deputy minister of information and culture in the gathering said that the great religion Islam was a religion of peace and fellow feelings and the world today direly needed the message of Islam.
Muslims from all over the world commemorate the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal of the Islamic lunar calendar year.
On this occasion public meetings are held in the mosques where religious leaders and scholars make speeches on different aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Religious scholars deliver speeches on the Prophets birth, childhood, youth and adult life, his character, teachings, sufferings, and forgiveness of even his most bitter enemies, his fortitude in the face of general opposition, leadership in battles, bravery, wisdom, preaching and his final triumph through Allahs mercy over the hearts of people.
International Conference on Afghanistan: a Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context
The Hague, 31 March 2009
On 31 March 2009, the Netherlands is hosting the ´International Conference on Afghanistan: a Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context´ at the World Forum in The Hague.
Both the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are expected to attend. The ministerial discussion will be co-chaired by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Rangin Dadfar Spanta and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Maxime Verhagen.
Invitees to the International Conference on Afghanistan 2009
A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context - The Hague, 31 March 2009.
List of invited countries and organizations
74. Aga Khan Development Network
75. Asian Development Bank (ADB)
76. European Union (EU) (High Representative, European Commission)
77. International Monetary Fund (IMF)
78. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
79. Organisation of the Islamic Conference
80. World Bank (WB)
81. Islamic Development Bank (IDB)
82. United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
83. United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UN Special Representative Mr Kai Eide
Clean and green: Renewable energy for Afghanistan
Source: Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)
Date: 17 Apr 2009
Posted on 17/04/2009 by Ian MacWilliam
Source: Afghan Update (UNAMA quarterly magazine)
The district of Surkh-e-Parsa lies at the upper end of the Ghorband Valley, not far from where the road begins to climb the bare hills to the Shibar Pass. Three green valleys converge at the district centre of Lolinj. The local people grow wheat and tend their fruit trees, but they have always been poor. For them, even before the war, the notion of electricity was a distant dream. The nearest government hydropower station was in Siahgird, far down the valley, and that was destroyed many years ago. For the people of these valleys, when the sun set, the day ended and they had little choice but to settle down for the night.
But in recent years, all that has changed. About seventy per cent of households in the three valleys – home to some 30,000 people -- now have electricity. Now there is light to allow children to study and people can continue their lives after sunset. The electricity runs flour mills, charges mobile phones and powers satellite television, which brings news of the outside world into this distant corner of Afghanistan. During the day it can also run washing machines and other labour-saving household devices.
This new electric power produces few greenhouse gases. It is relatively cheap and its production is sustainable, relying on simple technology which can be maintained by local people with some training. The source is a network of small hydroelectric and solar power units installed by the Aga Khan Foundation, one of nine international development agencies which make up the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). (Within AKDN, the Foundation specialises in rural development programmes.)
Elsewhere, in the town of Sheghnan in a remote part of Badakhshan, the local teacher training college built by AKDN is also supplied with clean, cheap renewable energy, in this case by a 15-kilowatt solar power unit. With no all-season road connection to the rest of Badakhshan, Sheghnan, on the Amu Darya, is isolated for much of the year. The town has never had government electricity. Until the solar unit was installed in 2007, the college used diesel generators, with all the usual problems of expense, pollution and shortages of fuel. Now the sun provides power for lighting, computers and other purposes in the main teaching centre as well as in the attached men's and women's hostels. Batteries store the solar electricity by day to ensure that electricity is available round the clock.
AKDN has been pioneering micro-hydroelectric power (MPH) units and solar power in Afghanistan since 2004. Some 250 MPH units have been installed or are currently under construction in five provinces across northeastern Afghanistan: Bamyan, Parwan, Baghlan, Takhar and Badakhshan. In solar power, 170 units have been installed. These projects now supply electricity to villages which would otherwise have no access to power.
These power projects have mostly been carried out by the local communities themselves under the government's National Solidarity Programme, with AKDN support. Local Community Development Councils established under NSP receive a grant which they can spend on development projects. Electricity is usually a priority for the councils. AKDN then helps the community, providing engineering expertise, essential contacts and organisational support to build the required power unit and to train local people who can maintain it and organise its upkeep.
Micro-hydropower units vary from small generators producing five kilowatts (kW), to larger units producing up to 100 kW. On average, AKDN units supply a minimum of 100 watts per family (enough to run five low-energy lightbulbs). A 5 kW unit produces enough power for 50 families.
The generators are run by a single turbine fed by water from mountain streams. Once built, a committee within the community council is responsible for the unit's upkeep, collecting fees from electricity users which are used for repairs and maintenance. The average cost is Af 100 per family per month.
AKDN has also pioneered the use of solar power in Afghanistan. In areas which lack an adequate water supply for MHP units, AKDN has installed solar panels to provide a basic power supply to villages or groups of houses. Solar units can vary in output from 20 watts (enough for two solar lightbulbs) to much larger units such as that installed for the Sheghnan college. Once installed, the panels can work for twenty years or more. The storage batteries must be replaced after four or five years.
The value of electric power provided by these clean, renewable energy sources is incalculable. Indeed the benefits are usually taken for granted by much of the world. Electric light improves literacy because it gives children more time to study. It also lessens the work burden of women by extending the hours available for domestic tasks. Electric power can reduce the amount of firewood and other fuel required for heat, light and cooking. That means that women and children no longer have to spend hours collecting fuel, and it is beneficial for the environment. Renewable energy reduces the use of polluting fuels such as diesel or petrol, and reduces the unhealthy effects of woodsmoke and other fumes in the house. In addition, electricity opens up new opportunities for other income generating activities, whether carpet-weaving, tailoring or other small businesses.
AKDN is also exploring the application of other green technologies and techniques in Afghanistan. One of these is pico hydropower – the use of very small water-powered generators with an output of 900 watts, suitable for about ten households. Two pilot energy-saving houses have been built to test traditional building materials -- mud and straw -- when adapted to provide better insulation. The use of bio-gas is being tested under rural Afghan conditions, and a windpower pilot project is underway. In addition to these energy-producing technologies, the use of energy-efficient domestic appliances -- solar cookers, solar water heaters, solar lights and energy-efficient stoves -- is to be tested.
Afghanistan needs cheap, clean energy. With consumption still relatively low in rural Afghanistan, these renewable forms of energy are an excellent and environmentally sound solution to the energy needs of many poor, rural families.
Dam of Awe to be Afghan national park
• Kabul puts beauty spot on tourist trail, 36 years late
• Visitors face perilous trip to see natural wonder
Jon Boone in Kabul The Guardian, Thursday 23 April 2009 Article history
The two-day, bone-rattling journey to Band-i-Amir may be littered with landmines and the odd village of Taliban sympathisers, but if the Afghan government gets its way a collection of five sapphire-blue lakes will one day become one of Central Asia's hottest international tourist destinations.
A first significant step was taken yesterday when Afghanistan declared that one of its most astonishing natural features will become the country's first national park - 36 years after a previous attempt to do so was interrupted by political strife and decades of war.
Few people would deny that the crystal-clear lakes in the country's mountainous centre, which are ringed with pink cliffs, deserve their new designation, which still needs to be ratified by parliament.
Nancy Hatch Dupree, in her classic 1970 guide to Afghanistan, wrote that a full description of such a place would "rob the uninitiated of the wonder and amazement it produces on all who gaze upon it".
According to local lore the huge natural dams of slow-growing mineral deposits that hold the lakes in place were thrown into position by Hazrat Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, during the reign of the infidel king Barbar.
Today the mineral-rich water bubbles through the cracks of the Dam of the Slaves, the Groom's Dam, the Mint Dam and the Dam of Cheese and surrounding wetlands. But it is the Dam of Awe, or Band-i-Haibat, that attracts most visitors and where the government hopes tourist facilities including guesthouses and shops can be established. About two miles long and 1,500 feet wide, the waters are supposed to have healing properties for anyone who braves temperatures that remain icy all year round in an area just under 3,000 metres above sea level.
For those who prefer not to swim, weirdly incongruous pink, blue and yellow swan-shaped pedaloes can be hired for less than a dollar for an hour of floating about on the placid waters.
The central highlands, dominated by the Hazara ethnic group, which has no truck with the Pashtun-dominated Taliban insurgency, is relatively safe and boasts other tourist magnets including the valley of Bamiyan, famous for the giant Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in late 2001.
Speaking at an event marking the signing of the decree turning the area into a national park yesterday, Frank Ricciardone, deputy US ambassador, was bullish in his predictions for the area's future. "You will draw visitors not only from all across Afghanistan, but all across the region and the world."
But although the province's international military base, run by New Zealand, is spending $1.5m on an eco-tourism project there are major obstacles to overcome before the area takes off as an international tourist destination.
According to a 2005 survey by the Asian Development Bank, almost 40,000 domestic tourists visited Band-i-Amir and Bamiyan, as did between 3,000 and 4,000 international visitors, mostly drawn from foreigners working in Kabul. Local officials say numbers dropped off sharply as security nationwide deteriorated.
While the shortest road from Kabul to Bamiyan and Band-i-Amir has been too dangerous for foreigners to travel for years, last summer a vehicle carrying an international aid worker on a previously safe long route was hit by a roadside bomb.When the Guardian attempted the journey by motorbike last October, police had to come to the rescue after a breakdown in one of the few Pashtun areas, close to the attack. The yard of the police station where the Guardian sought refuge boasted craters from a recent rocket attack.
Increasingly, foreigners rely on the dirt airstrip at Bamiyan, although flights are infrequent and technically reserved for those on official humanitarian business.
Last summer Sandy Gall, the TV journalist who covered the bloodshed in Afghanistan in the 1980s, horrified Foreign Office bureaucrats by leading a party of largely female Britons on a sponsored walk near the lakes to raise money for his Afghan charity. A shortage of seats on the plane forced a number of middle-aged woman to return to Kabul by minibus.
Amir Folabi, head of eco-tourism in Bamiyan for the Aga Khan Foundation, said the eco-tourism initiative was not intended to cater for a sudden increase in foreign tourists but to lay the ground work for sustainable tourism in the future.
Afghanistan has taken an important step in protecting its wildlife and preserving the beauty of its natural environment. In celebration of Earth Day 2009, the Director General of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency, Mostapha Zaher, declared Band-e-Amir as Afghanistan's first national park.
The official designation affords legal protection to the lakes and surrounding landscape and will ensure sustainable environmental management for this scenic area.
Band-e-Amir is a series of 6 lakes in central Bamyan Province, and the national park covers 59,000 hectares of land. The lakes present a stunning visual landscape, with their clear, azure-blue color set against red-rock cliffs and dry grasslands.
The lakes are held back by natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits. Some of the dams are breathtaking 30-foot rock walls, stretching across the valley in long, graceful arcs. The combination of desert, water, and rock make for landscapes that rival those of national parks anywhere in the world.
Since 2006, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, has been working with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and local communities surrounding Band-e-Amir to establish the national park.
To ensure the park's long-term sustainability, USAID, through its implementing partner the Wildlife Conservation Society, founded a local institution to manage the proposed park and helped to prepare a park management plan. USAID also advised the government on the development of the legal framework for establishing protected areas. This will help bring international recognition to the park.
By officially designating the area a national park, the government of Afghanistan will also encourage economic development in the 15 villages surrounding Band-e-Amir. Before the years of war and Taliban rule, Band-e-Amir was a popular tourist destination, and recently, tourism has begun to increase.
With help from USAID and its implementing partners, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Ecodit (an international environmental consulting company), and the Agha Khan network (a group of development agencies), local entrepreneurs are already building small shops, restaurants, and hotels – in accordance with the park's environmental management plan – to serve the growing number of tourists.
Afghanistan's national park is a good first step in preserving the country's priceless natural treasures for generations to come.
French Minister Pledges 9m Euro for Afghanistan
Written by Shakeela Abrahimkhil
Thursday, 14 May 2009 17:55
French Foreign Minister in a surprise visit to Kabul reaffirmed the commitment of France in the reconstruction of Afghanistan
Talking to his Afghan counterpart, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, French Foreign Minster said the donations will be driven to improve health services in the country.
"The money will be spent to provide more facilities to the French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul," Foreign Minster Bernard Kouchner said.
The French hospital in Kabul is one of most well-equipped with professional medical team hospitals providing free treatment to needy Afghan citizens.
The officials of the healthcare centre said 18 million Euros are needed to expand the hospital and develop it to a 400-bed health centre.
"Aga Khan Foundation will contribute the remaining 9 million Euros to complete the second phase of the hospital," Nadim Khan, an Aga Khan Development Network AKDN official, accompanying French FM in the hospital said.
Foreign Minster Kouncher in a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minster, Spanta pledged additional support to the Afghan government.
The French Minister had carried another message from this government to Afghanistan; the transparency of the August elections.
He discussed a free and fair elections with Minster Spanta in the Foreign Ministry and termed it a key factor for the future of Afghanistan.
Rebuilding Afghanistan's shattered health system The Aga Khan Development Network
The Buddhas of Bamyan were not the only things destroyed in the quarter century of civil conflict in Afghanistan. The health infrastructure was also decimated. The Aga Khan Development Network and its partners are helping rebuild it from the ground up, working with the government on health facilities from primary to tertiary with midwifery courses, new nursing and medical curriculums, new clinics, and hospitals.
The work for the reconstruction of one of the two giant Buddhas, destroyed in Taliban regime, has begun in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province, Director of Cultural Department of the province Najibullah Ahrar said on Thursday.
“After about one year’s feasibility studies, the work for the restructuring of smaller Buddha formally commenced with the support of Agha Khan Foundation on Tuesday,” he told Xinhua.
Ahrar added that a German company was carrying out the reconstruction process.
Taliban fanatic militants had dynamited the world’s cultural heritage, the 53-metre and 35-metre giant Buddhas, in March 2001. Rebuilding both the statues requires $100 million.
Looking for vacation? Try Afghanistan; tourism training program underway
The Associated Press
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — There’s a new building in town, and it isn’t a military barracks or a hospital. It’s a Tourist Information Center.
Even as troops fight militants in the south, government officials and donors in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan valley are training tour guides and teaching restaurateurs about customer service. It’s an attempt to draw tourism and return one small part of Afghanistan to normalcy.
The challenges are many — landmines, dangerous roads outside Bamiyan, and, not least, Afghanistan’s reputation as anything but a tourist haven. But the hope is to persuade history buffs and adventure seekers that Afghanistan can be safe, and locals are eager to give it a shot.
“I can improve my province this way, and my homeland,” said 19-year-old Zahra Naseri, as she rattled off facts about the calcium carbonate that gives the ground a whitish cast around a series of cascading mountain lakes. Naseri is one of about 20 people, mostly university students, who gather once a day at the tourist centre for lessons on how to become tour guides. “I want to show that Bamiyan is a historical place.”
The tourism training program is funded through a Geneva-based Islamic organization, the Aga Khan Development Network, as part of a $1.2-million ecotourism program. All Afghan tourism initiatives are currently funded by international donors, according to Deputy Minister for Tourism Ghulam Nabi Farahi. New Zealand and Japan are big donors in Bamiyan.
Back in the 1960s, Afghanistan was a major stop on the “hippie trail” of backpackers and enlightenment seekers. Foreigners tramped through on their way to India, staying in teahouses and touring the ancient cliff-hewn Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
There are now signs that tourism is increasing again, however slightly. Airport and hotel records show more than 400 foreigners had visited the Bamiyan area by early June, up from about 180 the same time in 2008, said Najibullah Ahrar, a representative from the information and culture ministry. He said many of them may have mixed work in the area with seeing the sights.
There’s still much to attract: Towering cliff caverns hold remnants of the Buddha statues. Ancient cities have been preserved from looters by the very landmines that make them dangerous to visit.
But by the end of October, the major historical sites are expected to be landmine-free. The area around the Buddhas has already been cleared. Deminers are now clearing mines from the top of the cliff, from where they were washing down with the spring rains.
A 2 1/2-hour drive away through golden canyons sits Afghanistan’s first national park, dedicated in June — the glassy Band-e-Amir lakes. Reflecting the jagged grey and red cliffs that surround them, the lakes have been described as Afghanistan’s answer to the Grand Canyon.
Entrepreneurship is also on the rise. A pizza joint is about to open at the foot of the destroyed Buddha statues. One of the more popular hotels with tourists — The Roof of Bamiyan — is working on getting wireless Internet. And a hotel that caters more to business workers already has WiFi, run off a backup battery so it works even when the generator doesn’t.
The UN Environment Program is also mapping out hiking trails between villages, with stops at way-stations manned by locals.
“Afghanistan is definitely a good brand. People will come ... They go to Nepal this year, they go to Chile the next year, they’re off to Afghanistan if it’s accessible,” said Andrew Scanlon, a protected areas expert working on the U.S. project. The plan, he explained, is “providing really, really fantastic outdoor experiences in natural landscapes that are somehow managed so it doesn’t get out of control.”
Scanlon is organizing a 21-kilometre run for late September, which he bills as “the world’s most beautiful half-marathon, linking the cultural and natural landscape in Bamiyan.” It will go through areas that were inaccessible a few years ago because of landmines.
Of course, there are still safety issues. In Bamiyan itself, there are no suicide bombings or roadside ambushes, no checkpoints to get from one part of town to another. The area — almost completely populated by the Hazara ethnic minority — doesn’t have ethnic clashes.
But tourists still have to get here. Road attacks mean that the eight-hour drive from Kabul to Bamiyan over a rocky dirt road can be dangerous. The only flights are for the U.S., or other aid or development workers.
One tour operator, Great Game Travel, stopped trips to Bamiyan last year because they were concerned about road safety. The non-profits and private tourism companies say there are lots of plans to work out flights to the area, but no firm commitments.
And the country itself is still very much at war, with Taliban militants controlling large parts of the south and launching attacks in the east. Many western nations warn their citizens to stay away.
There are also language issues — for example, it’s unclear who will employ the tour guides, since many do not speak enough English to easily guide international tourists. Training co-ordinator Jawad Jahid describes the training as a first step, much like the business seminars they’re running for local hotels and restaurants.
Tourism backers can look to the north of Afghanistan for hope. There, trekkers and culture buffs never stopped visiting the northern Wakhan corridor and the historical city of Mazar-e-Sharif, because they can be entered through the neighbouring countries of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There’s no need to enter the heavily barricaded Afghan capital.
KABUL, July 20 (Xinhua)-- Over 400 small and medium development projects financed by Agha Khan Foundation have been completed over the past five years in Baghlan province north of Afghanistan, director of the agency in the province Abdullah Paidar said Monday.
"Totally 412 projects which include building bridges, roads, small power plants and small dams, etc. at a cost of more than 347 million Afghanis (nearly seven million U.S. dollars) have been completed over the past five years," Paidar told newsmen at a press conference.
The projects have been implemented in 160 villages under National Solidarity Program (NSP) administered by Ministry for Rural Development and Rehabilitation, he further said.
Agha Khan Foundation like other international aid agencies has actively contributed in the rebuilding process of the war-torn Afghanistan over the past seven years.
The Ministry of Public Health and Agha Khan Foundations sign a Memorandum of Understanding for health service delivery in Bamyan and Baghlan
Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Date: 26 Jul 2009
Dr. SMA Fatimie, Minister of Public Health of Afghanistan and Ms. Samira, health Coordinator of Agha Khan Foundation (AKF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) in Bamyan and Baghlan provinces in the presence of His Excellency Mr. Ali Mawji, Ambassador of His Higness Prince Karim Agh Khan. The project targets district of Shibar in Bamyan and districts of Doshi and Dahana-i-Ghori in Baghlan province. The total value for this project is $12.1 million for 12 years from 2009 to 2020. For Shibar district the budget is $4.9 million and for Doshi and Dahana-I-Ghori districts the budget is $7.9 million.
The structure of the Health System in Afghanistan is traditional. At the district level, community health workers are providing health care and consultation to the people. The Basic Health Center is staffed by health professionals and provides all of the services that comprise the BPHS. Comprehensive Health Centres and District Hospitals offer a broader array of more sophisticated medical care.
The delivery of BPHS in Afghanistan has improved remarkably over the last four years. In order to reach Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, coverage and quality of care in the area of MCH services must be further improved. To this end MoPH with the support of its partners and donors tries to increase access to and utilization of BPH. With the support of donors and health stakeholders MoPH can increase access of poor people to the primary health care. AKF support in these 3 districts for 12 years will guarantee promotion of health for long term to the people. MoPH very much appreciates this generous support from the OIC said Dr. SMA Fatimie, Minister of Public Health of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Under 5 child mortality in Afghanistan has declined 26%, according to a Johns Hopkins University (JHU) household survey. We believe that this trend will continue because many clinics are newly built and quality of care improves day by day. We request also our friends in the OIC to support MoPH National Health Facility Development Plan to further realize equity in the provision of health care services to the needy people of Afghanistan he also added.
AFGHANISTAN: Tele-service attracts patients to Bamyan hospital
Photo: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN
The telemedicine project links up Bayman hospital with a hospital in Kabul for diagnosis and training purposes
BAMYAN, 27 July 2009 (IRIN) - A hospital in Bamyan Province, central Afghanistan, has set up a tele-medicine facility, linking it to the French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) in Kabul, the capital, for tele-radiology, tele-conferencing and other medical services.
The machine was launched in the Bamyan hospital by the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) and Roshan Telecom, also an Aga Khan enterprise.
“The tele-radiology allows us to electronically send a digital scan of an X-ray to an expert in FMIC in Kabul and receive the interpretation and expertise quickly, instead of sending the patient with his/her film to Kabul,” Mattew Rodieck, Bamyan hospital manager, told IRIN.
In addition, through live tele-conference and tele-consultation sessions, health workers from Bamyan hospital are involved in training and exchange of information with experts in Kabul for diagnostic purposes.
The machine, costing US$100,000, has helped the hospital and patients save money and time because they are not required to travel to Kabul – about 230km away – for diagnosis and training.
“Instead of sending staff for a two-hour training session in Kabul we electronically link the trainees in Bamyan with the trainers in Kabul,” said Rodieck.
Up to 20 scans were exchanged between the FMIC in Kabul and the Bamyan hospital in June, the first month of the project.
The first tele-medicine project was launched in 2007 linking FMIC in Kabul to the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. So far, more than 340 patients have benefited from the tele-medicine and some 231 Afghan medical personnel have participated in diagnostic and training opportunities facilitated by the new technology, according to AKHS.
Aga Khan Foundation to spend 12m dollars in Afghan health sector - radio
Jul 26, 2009 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- [Presenter] An agreement worth more than 12m dollars has been signed by the public health minister [Dr Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi] and representative of Aga Khan Foundation in Kabul to provide proper healthcare services.
Based on the agreement, the Aga Khan Foundation will provide healthcare services in three districts of northern Bamian and Baghlan provinces. Nilofar Kowsar has more.
[Correspondent] The agreement, which was signed by Dr Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi, the public health minister and Ali Moji, representative of Aga Khan Foundation in Kabul on Sunday [26 July] and based on the agreement, the Aga Khan Foundation will offer quality healthcare services in Shebar District of Bamian and Doshi and Dahan-e Ghori districts of northern Baghlan Province.
Ali Moji said, while signing the agreement, that they would try to increase their assistance to Afghanistan.
According to Mr Fatemi, the agreement will be valid for 12 years and during this period; the Aga Khan Foundation will carry out activities based on policies and strategies of the Public Health Ministry.
It will render quality healthcare services for inhabitants of the said areas.
[Fatemi] The agreement worth more than 12.1m dollars and roughly 4.9m dollars will be invested in Shebar District of Bamian Province. The residents of this district will be provided with basic healthcare services.
Also, more than 7m dollars will be invested in Doshi and Dahan-e Ghori districts of Baghlan Province.
[Correspondent] Officials of the Public health Ministry say that healthcare services have been increased from 10 to 80 per cent across the country but the people complain that they face a lot of problems in terms of healthcare services in far-flung areas.
Source: Radio Afghanistan, Kabul, in Dari 1530 gmt 26 Jul 09
AFGHANISTAN: Midwives defy tradition and save lives
Photo: Akmal Dawi/IRIN
Health officials in Bamyan Province say newly trained midwives have increased child delivery rates at health centres and have reduced maternal deaths
BAMYAN, 12 August 2009 (IRIN) - When the first and only midwifery school was opened in 2004 in Bamyan city, central Afghanistan, not a single application was received for the 18-month course. Today, the school has to turn down dozens of applications from women all over the province because it cannot accommodate more than 25 students at a time.
“We have earned the peoples’ trust in our work,” Saleha Hamnavazada, coordinator of Bamyan Midwifery School, told IRIN. “We have created a reliable learning environment for women and have assured their men that women are totally safe and protected here.”
Conservative traditions in Afghanistan have restricted women’s and girls’ access to education, work, healthcare and other social activities across the country, albeit in varying degrees.
Women and girls are often stopped from going to health centres or schools because of a lack of female health workers and teachers.
The consequences are severe: annually, 24,000 women die before, during or just after childbirth because of a lack of healthcare; and the female illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world at more than 85 percent, according to UN agencies.
Photo: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN
In addition to providing essential obstetric care, midwives raise awareness of family planning and HIV/AIDS
Breaking down barriers
“I want to break superstitious taboos in our society which impede women’s education and work,” Masooma, a midwifery student from Daikundi Province, told IRIN. “I saw the deaths of my two sisters-in-law during childbirth because there was no midwife or doctor to save them.”
However, the midwifery profession is starting to be considered both decent and lucrative for women, particularly in rural areas.
“A midwife works only for women so it is acceptable,” said one man in Bamyan city, who requested anonymity.
The number of midwifery schools in the country has increased from six in 2002 to 31 in 2009, according to Pashtoon Azfar, director of the National Association of Midwives (NAM). Since 2002, more than 2,000 midwives have been trained and employed by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and NGOs in health centres across the country, Azfar told IRIN.
Midwives are believed to have improved women’s access to essential health services and have reduced maternal mortality in some parts of the country.
“Maternal death during child delivery has decreased by about 50 percent,” Zainab Rezayee, an obstetrician in Bamyan Provincial Hospital, told IRIN, referring to her hospital. Both Bamyan Provincial Hospital and Bamyan Midwifery School are managed by the Aga Khan Development Network.
In 2004, two to four babies were born every month at health centres in rural Bamyan. Today, more than 35 are born in medical centres every month thanks to 41 graduated midwives in the province. Deliveries at Bamyan Provincial Hospital have increased from 30 a month in 2004 to more than 130 in 2009, Rezayee said.
Across the country, the percentage of women receiving antenatal care increased from 4.6 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2006, while the rate of child deliveries attended by a skilled health worker increased from 8 percent to over 19 percent in the same period, according to NAM.
In addition to facilitating childbirth, midwives increase women’s awareness about family planning, HIV/AIDS and transmittable sexual diseases.
Photo: Akmal Dawi/IRIN
Afghanistan needs up to 8,000 midwives to curb its high infant and maternal mortality ratios
Officials in the health ministry say it is time to re-assess Afghanistan’s poor maternal mortality record – rated the second-worst in the world after Sierra Leone, with 1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, in a 2006 nationwide assessment.
“We need a new assessment to gauge how much the ratio has dropped,” said Azfar, who also heads the main midwifery school in Kabul.
No quick fix
Afghanistan has one of the highest fertility rates in Asia and the average Afghan woman gives birth to six to seven children in her life, according to the UN Population Fund.
There are about 2,400 midwives in the country but about 8,000 are required to provide basic obstetric services for all Afghan women, NAM said.
“We train 300-400 midwives every year at 31 midwifery schools in the country,” said Azfar, adding that one school would be opened by the end of 2009 in the Paktika Province where women have very little access to basic healthcare.
At this rate, it will take at least 14 years to train the needed 5,600 extra midwives. Until then, thousands of women will continue to die from preventable deaths.
Dr Zemaryalai Tarzi is an Afghan with a big dream. To be exact, this archaeologist dreams of a giant - a 1,000ft (300 metre) sleeping Buddha.
Try to imagine a stone statue reclining across the length of three football fields.
A Buddhist civilisation once flourished in Afghanistan's central highlands
But it is more than a dream. Dr Tarzi is trying to make it a reality.
"At first, people told me I must be mad," he recounted, barely concealing a smile, as we stood at his excavation in the midst of potato fields in the ancient Afghan city of Bamiyan.
"An archaeologist needs proof. We need to keep searching."
Dr Tarzi, who has been mapping the landscape of Bamiyan for 40 years, is renowned world-wide for his knowledge of the Buddhist civilisation that flourished centuries ago in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
Bamiyan was a storied destination for travellers journeying on the Silk Road between East and West.
In the 7th Century, a Chinese pilgrim, Xuan Zang, marvelled at a colossal reclining statue: "To the east of the city there is a monastery in which there is a figure of Buddha lying in a sleeping position, as when he attained nirvana. The figure is in length about 1,000 feet."
The Taliban destroyed the giant statues leaving just a hole where they stood
His detailed journal piqued Dr Tarzi's curiosity.
It read like tantalising proof because Xuan Zang also wrote with passion, and precision, of two magnificent stone Buddhas which stood guard over the valley.
The Taliban smashed those statues, the world's largest standing Buddhas, in 2001, denouncing them as un-Islamic idols.
That gave further fuel to Dr Tarzi's drive to find the third Buddha. It was an archaeologist's revenge.
"A country's history cannot be destroyed," he fumed.
I first visited Dr Tarzi in 2005, during the summer months he spends at the dig.
It was hard not to find myself willing him to succeed. He confessed, his voice breaking, he still could not bear to look at the gaping niches in the stone cliffs towering over the place where he was working.
He is still there, looking for all the world like an Afghan Indiana Jones of the epic films, with his chino apparel, floppy hat, and air of scholarly adventure.
Dr Tarzi demonstrates the repose of a sleeping Buddha statue
The earthen cavities are hives of activity. Afghan archaeologists trained by Dr Tarzi and French colleagues from Strasbourg University gently tap picks and trowels in the dust and dirt, backed up by a small legion of labourers.
His team's diligent search for hidden treasures has yielded a stunning array of stone remnants from the remains of Buddhist monasteries - small feet from statues, chiselled folds of monastic robes, sacred stupas.
Then, last November, a cry of excitement rang out across this verdant valley. At last, a sleeping Buddha had surfaced.
But it was not the fabled giant. Their persistent digging had uncovered fragments of a reclining figure estimated to be 62 feet (19 metres) long. One hand protruded visibly, without a thumb. The head was destroyed.
It was still hard for a novice to visualise.
Dr Tarzi gave it his best, stretching himself sideways along a flat hard surface, one hand tucked neatly under his head. Indiana Jones could have done no better.
I ask whether this smaller statue may be all there is. It is, after all, a wonderful find.
Afghans trained by Dr Tarzi work alongside students from Strasbourg
"I will persist," the sprightly 70-year-old declared with a firm shake of his head. He guided us to another area running along the foot of the sandstone cliffs where he believes a much bigger Buddha still lies sleeping.
Dr Tarzi does not want this remarkable history to be forgotten.
In the middle of the day, when a hot sun blazes in the sky, he teaches a master class for young Afghans training to be tour guides at an eco-tourism centre set up with the help of the Aga Khan Foundation.
Bamiyan is one of the few places in Afghanistan now safe enough to dream of tourists too.
Playing the role of a would be tourist, I asked enthusiastic students to convince me to visit.
"Welcome to Bamiyan, historical place, safe for tourists," was the practised but heartfelt reply of an earnest bespectacled woman.
An older male student shouted from the back row, "Bamiyan is exceptional in Afghanistan".
All the students nodded in agreement.
When darkness descended, Dr Tarzi was honoured at a musical evening attended by a gathering of Bamiyan residents who wish him every success. A trio of musicians sang of destroyed Buddhas that are still very much alive.
The legend of a giant still lives in Bamiyan. He has slept through centuries of conquest, a quarter century of war, and the end of Taliban rule.
If he ever wakes, it would be a dream come true for Dr Tarzi, and countless other Afghans with their own dreams of a lost past and a brighter better future.
Watch Lyse Doucet's film in full on Newsnight on Thursday 10 September 2009 at 10.30pm on BBC Two, then afterward on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.
AKTC-Afghanistan Newsletters XX-XXII in Digital Library
Three newsletters reporting on Aga Khan Trust for Culture operations in Afghanistan for the second half of 2009 are now available on ArchNet. Each of these AKTC-issued publications covers a two-month period of activities. The July/August 2009 issue includes accounts of a surveying mission in Badakhshan and the Wakhan, the start of restoration work on the Ulya Madrasa in Kabul’s old city, a successful campaign to save Kabul’s Baghban Bashi mosque and the ongoing efforts to consider Herat for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The September/October 2009 newsletter covers emergency repairs to the Milma Pal mosque in Kabul, preliminary conservation work on the Noh Gumbad Mosque in Balkh, and the completion of an AKTC conservation program in Gazurgah.
In the November/December 2009 newsletter, there are reports about craftsmanship training programs for Kabul residents, repairs to the vast godam in Herat, and reconstruction work on the nearby Ibn Omar mosque. This issue also includes an announcement of the December publication by the AKTC of Tales From the Wakhan, a book covering Wakhi and Kyrgyz folktales and summaries of key archaeological sites in the region.
You can view previous issues of the AKTC-Afghanistan newsletters within the ArchNet Digital Library.
"The struggle for renewal and modernization of the Muslim world has accelerated considerably in recent times, especially in the most impoverished, neglected and peripheral regions, including war-torn countries such as Afghanistan. The two decades of civil war that wreaked havoc on Afghanistan's economy and polity caused many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch large-scale aid programmes aimed at rebuilding the country's infrastructures and civic institutions. An NGO that is at the forefront of integrated community development in Afghanistan is the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) that has been engaged in the reconstruction of the country since 2002. The principal objective of this article is to study the plight of the minority Tajik Ismaili community in the northern province of Takhar prior to and during the civil war in Afghanistan, and explore the role of the AKDN in the process of rebuilding economic infrastructures in Takhar, as well as its efforts to modernize the community and facilitate its integration into the twenty-first century."
Lonely Planet Afghanistan
A trek through the Wakhan corridor.
BY NICK HORNE | MARCH 19, 2010
Few places in the world today seem like less inviting tourist destinations than Afghanistan. Yet some NGOs are trying to lure adventurers and backpackers to the war-torn country as one possible way to stimulate local economic development.
It isn't easy going. Much of the country is an active conflict zone, and even those regions with relatively less violence have poor roads and minimal connections to the outside world. But the hope is that even a little backpacker foot traffic -- a few beds filled at guesthouses, a little income for guides and families providing meals to travelers -- might help bring money and more options to Afghan locals.
That was the thinking that inspired David James, a veteran British soldier who completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan and returned to the country in 2009 to found the nonprofit Mountain Unity. James says he became convinced that there would be no peace in the country until Afghans had other methods of generating income other than narcotics, corruption, and insurgency.
"Afghan entrepreneurs invest in opium because it gives them the best and safest return on their investment," he explains. "[But] the international community really, really needs to focus on helping Afghans find other ways to earn money.... I left the Army determined to return to Afghanistan and do something that would really help the Afghan people. I have to say tourism wasn't something that instantly sprang to mind, but when you really study it, it makes sense on many levels."
James isn't alone in his ambitions. In 2006, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a coalition of development organizations that operates across Central and South Asia and the Middle East, began to develop its own tourism-promotion plans for Afghanistan. Among other projects, it, in partnership with the German government's development agency, mapped scenic backpacking routes and produced a glossy, photo-filled brochure of recommended treks. Today AKDN continues to train guides in the country's central highlands and northeastern regions
Afghanistan – the new skiing destination
Taliban-plagued Afghanistan is not an obvious tourist draw. But it's hoped that a snowy valley may change that
(67)Tweet this (46)Jon Boone guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 April 2010 22.00 BST Article history
"These are the deeply humble beginnings out of which Bamiyan, an impoverished but heart-stoppingly beautiful province, hopes to develop a robust ski industry. There is serious weight behind the plan to encourage winter "ecotourism" here, including the province's governor, the Aga Khan Development Network and the New Zealand government (the country has troops in the province)."
In 2009, Canadian journalist Richard Phinney travelled back to Afghanistan after several years away. Instead of finding the poppies, guns, and violence he remembered, Phinney found new water pipes born out of community cooperation, ‘social audits’ demonstrating democracy at its best, and girls dreaming of becoming doctors and teachers.
Change in the Making: a Journey in Afghanistan is the story of Phinney’s travels through the remote mountainous province of Badakhshan where he encountered people whose lives have been transformed, thanks to the work of the Aga Khan Foundation and the generosity of ordinary Canadians.
These experiences stem from the Foundation’s ethos that development is a partnership, and community ownership is essential for success. In places where poverty seems insurmountable, Afghans are taking charge of their own future, creating strong and resilient communities inspired to build a better life for their children.
Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan
While Afghanistan continues to faces pressing challenges, Aga Khan Foundation with its sister agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is working with the government, civil society and a wide range of local and international partners to create social and economic opportunities.
Building on nearly three decades of experience in neighbouring Pakistan and two decades in Tajikistan, AKF’s community-led initiatives in seven central and north-eastern provinces are strengthening governance and improving health and education, as part of long-term commitment to address poverty and instability in the country.
AKFC’s programs are part of the AKDN’s broader investments in Afghanistan. In addition to large-scale rural development; health, education and civil society programmes, AKDN initiatives include microfinance services; the rehabilitation of historic neighbourhoods in Kabul and Herat; a rapidly growing mobile phone network; and the renovation of a five-star hotel in Kabul.
By Ian MacWilliam, Communications Officer, Aga Khan Development Network, Afghanistan
Tourism in Afghanistan? It’s not what you expect from this remote and beautiful, but troubled Central Asian nation. Most media reports on Afghanistan talk of war and bloodshed, insurgents and explosive devices. What they rarely report is that most of the northern half of the country is in fact quite peaceful and that reconstruction and development are moving forward.
A trickle of adventurous tourists is already arriving in Afghanistan, reminding Afghans of the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s when their country was a popular destination for thousands of foreign visitors, and tourism was good business. Those who came then ranged from archaeologists and ethnographers to hippies and other Western youth looking for adventure in high Asia.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the world’s largest private development agencies, works extensively in South and Central Asia. In two regions of Afghanistan (and in neighbouring Tajikistan), the Network is now supporting cautious plans to help revive the tourist industry as a way of creating jobs, and also to ensure that the inevitable tourism developments remain under the control of local people.
AKDN has ecotourism programmes in two areas – the remote and mysterious Wakhan Corridor, in the panhandle of northeastern Afghanistan, sandwiched between Pakistan, China and Tajikistan; and in the serenely beautiful Bamyan region of central Afghanistan, site of the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taleban.
New Midwives and Nurses Join Efforts to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Kabul
Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Date: 25 Jan 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan | January 25, 2011 — In a graduation ceremony at Ministry of Public Health in Kabul today, 75 Afghan women received certificates for successfully completing the USAID-funded hospital midwifery education program and nine Afghan women received nursing degrees through the Aga Khan University Program in Afghanistan.
Women who enter the two-year hospital midwife education program are selected through the national Concur examination system and must have a least a ninth grade education, good literacy skills, and be between 16 and 30 years of age. After graduation, the new midwives are deployed to hospitals or comprehensive health centers.
Second Vice-President Karim Khalili, Acting Minister of Public Health Dr. Suraya Dalil, USAID Senior Deputy Mission Director Robert Hellyer, Director of Ghazanfar Institute of Health and Sciences Dr. Kymia Azizi, Head of Aga Khan University Programs in Afghanistan, Dr. Parvez Nayani, other Ministry of Public Health officials, and members of the international donor community took part in the ceremony.
Afghanistan has the second highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the world. Approximately every 30 minutes, a mother dies giving birth in Afghanistan, and 77 percent of these deaths are due to factors that could be avoided with proper health care. The neonatal mortality rate is also high in Afghanistan, with 60 newborns out of every 1,000 dying in the first month of life. Vice-President Khalili in his speech asked the international community to continue helping the health sector of Afghanistan.
"Maternal mortality reduction is not solely a health agenda; it's rather an economical, developmental & social issue. We can't have a prosperous Afghanistan unless we tackle or address maternal death seriously," said Acting Minister Dalil.
With multi-donor support and a high-level commitment from the MoPH, the number of midwives in Afghanistan has increased from 467 in 2002 to more than 2,700 today. USAID has helped train 1,478 midwives and developed the midwifery education program utilized by 34 midwifery schools in 32 provinces.
"The United States strongly supports midwifery and nursing education, and believes that increasing the number of skilled health providers in Afghanistan is essential to improving maternal and child health and reaching Afghanistan's Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 50 percent by 2015. Our support demonstrates our lasting commitment to the people of Afghanistan," said USAID Senior Deputy Mission Director Hellyer."
USAID collaborates with the Ministry to support midwifery education programs throughout Afghanistan, and is increasing the number of skilled midwives in an effort to reduce infant and maternal mortality. # # #
In 2001, Bamyan made the news when the Taliban destroyed huge 6th century statues of the Buddha. The province, home of the Hazara people, is now slowly rebuilding itself and is trying to re-open its doors to tourism. Bamyan is a UNESCO world heritage site (pic, above )and has potential to grow as an ecotourism and adventure trekking destination in Afghanistan, for locals as well as international visitors.
A group of 16 senior Afghan government officials, conservation leaders and private sector operators from Bamyan visited Nepal this week to learn from Nepal's tourism experience and understand tourism models that involve the private sector and the community. The group visited Bandipur, Pokhara and Kathmandu.
"Nepal serves as a positive example for us," says Amir Foladi of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Afghanistan, who is leading the study tour. In 2009, he led a group of Afghan officials to Nepal to introduce them to tourism.
Foladi says that the tour has allowed the group to understand that development of tourism with the involvement of the private sector and the community can be highly beneficial. "We saw that the local people were very involved in tourism and that this helps the tourists to get acquainted with the area's culture firsthand," says Foladi. "We also saw that local traditions have been incorporated into the hotels and tourist centres, allowing tourists to experience something different and at the same time be comfortable."
In Pokhara, the group attended workshops by Nepali tourism entrepreneurs and the Three Sisters Trekking Company. "The sisters explained to us how women can also be a part of the tourism industry," says Foladi. "This is another lesson for our group."
Ebrahim Akhari, Head of Bamyan's Department of Information and Culture, says that the trip has been a learning experience. "It has helped us understand that tourism has to move forward by integrating the private sector and also by protecting the environment."
In Kathmandu, the group studied the workings of the Nepal Tourism Board so that a similar institution can be established in Bamyan to market its potential. Says Foladi: "Our group is taking a pool of ideas from Nepal, and we hope to implement those ideas back home to develop Bamyan's tourism."
Working in over 25 countries around the world, The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) strives to improve health, education, rural development, institution-building and promote economic development in fragile states. AKDN serves people regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity and is a non-denominational organization. Most grants are made to grassroots organizations with a holistic view of development.
One such example of this type of organization is Roshan. Operating in Afghanistan since 2003 when there was virtually no telecommunications infrastructure, Roshan is now the leading Afghan telecommunications provider and the market leader with over 4 million active subscribers and a network that covers over 230 cities and towns in all of the country’s 34 provinces. Furthermore, Roshan is the country’s single largest investor and the largest taxpayer, contributing approximately 5% of the Afghan government’s overall domestic revenue.
Shainoor Khoja, Director of Corporate Affairs at Roshan
Mirza Jahani, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation USA
Daniel F. Runde, Director, CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development
Project on Prosperity and Development
Defense and Security, International Security, Terrorism, Trade and Economics
Afghanistan, South Asia
Agakhan Foundation sponsors project on the largest Qur'an
Tuesday, June 07, 2011 Kabul (BIA) Chief Justice, Ministers of Information and Culture, Hajj and Edowment along advisor minister in cultural affairs of Presidential Office visited work on the biggest volume of Holy Quran in Nasir Khusraw Balkhi Foundation.
Chief Justice, Ministers of Information and Culture, Hajj and Edowment along advisor minister in cultural affairs of Presidential Office visited work on the biggest volume of Holy Quran in Nasir Khusraw Balkhi Foundation. This largely volume of Holy Quran is the result of tireless five-year work of outstanding artist of the country Sabir Yaqut Hussaini. Prof. Abdul Salam Azimi Chief Justice said that “Afghanistan has many achievements. Yesterday another unique honor was bestowed that is not only unique in Afghanistan but at the world level attained with the efforts of our outstanding artist. He added that God is assigning persons for safeguarding religion and we are witness to this great volume of Holy Quran that is being created with the able fingers of this artist. Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen Minister of Information and Culture said at the visit that 1400 years Islamic culture civilization with all its dimensions, with all arts, compilations and designs, scientific and cultural thinking have been at the service of Holy Quran. All the great artists of Islam in the course of 1400 years have strived in regulating and decoration of Holy Quran. In our contemporary history it is the Holy Quran that is to be created at the initiative of Ustad Sabir in five year time with the encouragement of Sayed Mansour Naderi on decorative pages with golden colors. He added that Holy Quran itself was unsparing in creating of decorative designs by artists of our nation during the decades and yesterday we were able to see the latest innovation of large volume of Holy Quran. Sabir Yaqut Hussaini is one of the Afghan refugees who has learned the art of calligraphy during migration, and the design of each page of the Holy Quran is made on a piece of cloth at the length of two meters and 1.5 meters wide and with the art of his fingers the pages of Holy Quran have been written while the Agha Khan Foundation is financed this project. According to Yaqut first he shared his views with the elders and religious Ulema and then started work on it. He said he worked for five years with ten students till we have created such a great gift to the Islam world. Dr. Mohammad Yusuf Niazi Minister of Hajj and Endowment, Zalmai Heywadmal minister advisor in cultural affairs and Abdul Malik Kamawi head of the administration of judiciary also praised the work of this able artist of the country.
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