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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 18:40 GMT
The cost of rebuilding Afghanistan
A girl looks out the window of her house in Mazar-e-Sharif
Afghanistan needs significant infrastucture help
By BBC News Online's Richard Allen Greene

As wealthy nations begin serious fundraising for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, major aid agencies admit that no-one knows what the final bill will be.

"No-one is ready or able at this point to say what the costs are going to be," the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) told BBC News Online.

We need to establish enough funds so that ministers will have staff and office equipment

Julia Taft, UNDP
Estimates vary wildly, with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw saying it could be $20 bn, while Germany came up with the figure of $6 bn.

United Nations Development Programme Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said that the the rebuilding of Mozambique is the closest possible comparison to the Afghanistan undertaking.

The Mozambique project cost $6.5 billion and took five years.

Mr Straw's analysis was based on the $5 billion price tag for reconstruction in Bosnia and the fact that Afghanistan has a population four times larger than the former Yugoslav republic's.

Needs assessments are taking place in Afghanistan and should be completed early next year.

The United Nations Development Programme expects to have a "rough draft" reconstruction programme ready for a ministerial donors' meeting in Tokyo at the end of January.

Massive project

Whatever the exact figure, the final cost of reconstructing Afghanistan after more than 20 years of war will be huge; the UNDP is preparing a five to 10 year plan for the project.

The agency began by requesting $15 to 20 million to establish the Afghan Interim Authority Fund, which will cover the cost of administration and pay civil service salaries for six months.

Aid for Afghanistan is being stockpiled in Termez
Food is being delivered ...
"Right now, there is no money left to run the country," said Julia Taft, director of the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

"We need to establish enough funds so that ministers will have staff and office equipment," she said.

Mr Malloch Brown has urged the international community to seize the "unexpected opportunity triggered by 11 September" to move beyond simply providing emergency relief aid to recovery and reconstruction.

At an aid conference in Berlin at the beginning of December, he outlined four priorities:

  • Security, including establishing a police and justice system, de-mining, and "small arms collection in a country where half the men carry a gun"

  • Agriculture, with an eye to planting seeds in March and repairing irrigation systems

  • Community-based programs to provide services such as schooling, health care, and repair of basic infrastructure until national systems are in place

  • Return of refugees and internally displaced persons.


David Lockwood, the UNDP deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region, said simply employing people would be an important first step towards recovery.

Providing employment for demobilised fighters, for example, would both help prevent the resumption of hostilities and feed money into the local economy.

An Afghan youth wheels food aid on a cart
... but such aid is just the beginning
While warning of the magnitude of the task, international aid agencies seem certain that donors will be willing to provide a significant amount of money.

The Tokyo meeting is essentially a "pledge conference" for donors to promise funds.

They will have no shortage of projects to choose from.

The food and refugee crises have gained the most attention, but many services Westerners take for granted are unreliable or non-existent in Afghanistan.

Less than a quarter of Afghans have access to safe water and nearly 90% do not have access to proper sanitation.

Most boys do not attend school, and only 3% of girls do, according to the UNDP.

See also:

09 Dec 01 | South Asia
Breakthrough in Afghan aid effort
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN aid shipment reaches Afghanistan
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
New wave of refugees feared
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN prepares major Afghan relief effort
05 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kabul's road to recovery
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