UNFPA in Afghanistan
UNFPA AFGHANISTAN: FAQs
Question: How does UNFPA's current intervention in Afghanistan link with the past two country programs for continuity, and what are some future directions in which UNFPA support could be meaningful?
Answer: The third country programme is in many ways, a continuation of UNFPA interventions in the previous two country programs, which had the same components. Using lessons learned from past experience, and data provided by its surveys and studies, UNFPA has shaped the current program for maximum impact, by making it more focussed and intense and evidence-based, and by limiting the number of sites and integrating different components of response for a more consolidated impact.
UNFPA plans to continue to support both the government and private sectors in Afghanistan, to improve sexual and reproductive health care coverage for Afghan women, empower women and youth, develop local capacities to respond to emergencies and disasters, and prevent and respond to gender based violence. It also plans to replicate its successfully accomplished household demographic and economic survey in Bamyan and the sketch mapping and extensive houses, establishments, and institutions listing in Daikundi, in other peaceful provinces, to collect relevant population data for development planning.
Question: What can be counted the most significant contribution of UNFPA in the context of Afghanistan to date?
Answer: Our biggest contribution is the increase in community resilience as a result of our interventions. UNFPA works with the conviction that lasting positive change can only occur by empowering communities to help themselves, and by working with them through a process of attitude and behaviour change.
Question: Why are UNFPA's demographic and economic data collection efforts important, and how do you think these data will be able to assist in Afghanistan's development?
Answer: Accurate population data is necessary for assessing governance systems, revising policies and strategies for the public and private sector, planning development, allocating resources equitably and rationally, opening up economic opportunities, and thus preparing people for positive change. Nearly 99% of policy decisions come from the answers to the questions "what", "who", and "where", which a census provides.
Using the demographic data collected by the CSO in Bamyan and the village information collected in Daikundi, UNFPA will help national and local authorities design a District Emergency Preparedness Plan, as part of the humanitarian assistance component of its intervention. By identifying and locating all prominent land marks, buildings, public services available in each district, an effective emergency response can be put in place.
Question: Why is gender such a major priority for UNFPA in Afghanistan and why is gender equity of so much concern?
Answer: Afghan women are among the most at risk of gender-based and human rights abuse. UNFPA is determined to empower Afghan women so that they are acknowledged as valid and valuable members of their communities, and so that they have a voice that is heard. Afghan women often become victims to traditional malpractices such as ‘badd' (wherein a girl from one family is given away to another family or tribe, as compensation or peace offering to end a dispute), or ‘badal' (where two families exchange daughters in marriage, without necessarily consulting the girl's wishes), as well as forced and child marriages. Their position of disempowerment puts women at a disadvantage, and they are often deprived of basic human rights such as education, adequate food, access to health care, and other social liberties. UNFPA efforts are an attempt to right these wrongs.
Question: Having taken initial steps for main-streaming Afghan youth into the country's development planning, what does UNFP plan to do next?
Answer: Afghans are an extremely young population with nearly 50% of Afghans less than 15 years old. UNFPA believes that Afghanistan can cash in on this immense demographic potential for bringing about development and change by investing in the youth, as they are still in the formative years of their personal development. UNFPA is involved in projects for empowering and enabling Afghan youth, and plans to advocate for, and support the formation of youth-friendly policies and strategies at the national level. It also hopes to continue and expand its youth programs subject to funding support from partner development organizations.
Question: What was UNFPA's criteria for selection of specific provinces, where it implemented its projects? Does UNFPA have plans for expanding its support to other provinces in the coming months and years?
Answer: UNFPA implemented projects in Bamyan, Badakhshan, Faryab, and Daikundi because they were among the most impoverished and under-served provinces in Afghanistan. The element of continuity dictated the choice of Faryab, where UNFPA-supported projects were already in progress, and were at a stage that warranted their continuation. Bamyan, Daikundi, and Badakhshan on the other hand, were deliberate choices based on their levels of poverty and deprivation, as compared to other provinces in Afghanistan.
UNFPA plans to expand its reproductive health care and gender based violence prevention interventions to other provinces subject to funding availability from its development partners. UNFPA plans to initiate reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention projects in Ghor (another poor and underserved province), and gender-based violence prevention activities, in Nangarhar and Herat provinces, where increasing incidences of suicide among women and other indications of gender-based violence, are a cause of concern.
Question: In conclusion, what aspect of UNFPA's Afghanistan program do you believe, makes it unique among the agencies working for humanitarian support and development in Afghanistan?
Answer: The uniqueness of UNFPA's program in Afghanistan is embodied in its exceptionally sensitive mandate, which focuses on gender equality and opposes gender-based violence, issues not easy to work with, particularly in the context of Afghanistan, where gender inequities and violence, though not aligned with Islamic belief, have become entrenched in traditional lifestyles and practices of some essentially tribal communities. Its promotion of sexual and reproductive health awareness and rights is another sensitive area of intervention, which the government is gradually beginning to endorse. UNFPA interventions related to youth, and to the planning and implementing a population census also have their own challenges, and require a lot of political juggling.
Finally, UNFPA's role for inter-agency cooperation, as the lead in the H4+, which includes development partners, UNICEF, WHO, UNAID, UNFPA, World Bank, and now, USAID, and is a move for coordinated interventions for development of different sectors in specific geographic locations, is another unique feature.