UNFPA in Afghanistan
UNFPA AFGHANISTAN - A BRIEF HISTORY
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) started its operation in Afghanistan in 1976, with its primary focus on family planning (FP). When political upheavals in the late 1970s prompted large numbers of Afghans to flee the country and take refuge in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, UNFPA extended the scope of its interventions to reach refugees in both Iran and Pakistan, where it supported reproductive health services including Emergency Obstetric Care, Family Planning, and training of service providers. In 2002 UNFPA first established its country office in Kabul, and between 2002 and 2004, supported the rehabilitation of three major maternity hospitals in Kabul, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
The cross-cutting themes that are the focus of UNFPA country programmes, have protection of women's right to life, dignity and well-being, and population and development as their primary objectives. UNFPA's politically and culturally sensitive strategies encourage and promote the development of home-grown and culturally acceptable solutions to problems, which guarantee their sustainability and ownership by beneficiary groups. UNFPA operates in close coordination with existing government and civil society bodies, aiming to strengthen and enable them to identify and prioritize issues, and to plan appropriate strategies to address them.
First Country Programme (2004 - 2006)
UNFPA's first country programme in Afghanistan focused primarily on assisting the Afghan government in building technical capacities of the Ministries of Public Health (MoPH) and Women's Affairs (MoWA), and helping in developing national reproductive health and HIV/AIDS strategies, reproductive health guidelines, and implementing programmes. UNFPA also supported the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) in launching the first household listing (HHL) project covering the whole of Afghanistan, in preparation for the country's nation-wide Population and Housing Census (APHC).
Second Country Programme (2007 - 2009)
The highlights of UNFPA's second country programme include its contribution to the development of the national Reproductive Health (RH) and FP strategy. Other significant inputs include lobbying for the integration of management and treatment of Obstetric Fistula into the national RH strategy, establishment of the first fistula treatment facility in Kabul, support of a review of the national HIV and AIDS strategic plan, and the development of a Reproductive Health Commodities Security (RHCS) action plan. In partnership with the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs (MoHRA), UNFPA supported training of religious leaders on the harms of gender based violence (GBV) and the importance of healthy families.
Recognizing the importance of accurate population data for planning development in sync with real needs, UNFPA strengthened the institutional capacity of CSO through infrastructural rehabilitation and establishment of a Census Data Processing Centre, construction of training facilities and warehouses, and strengthening of IT, Geographic Information System (GIS), and cartography skills of relevant CSO staffs. It also supported the preparation of census base maps and implementation of a pilot census in preparation for the 2008 Afghanistan Population and Housing Census (APHC).
Third Country Programme (2010 - 2013)
The third country programme is based on national priorities as reflected in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), which is aligned with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and contributes to the achievement of all three United Nations Development Assistance Framework priority areas (a) governance, peace and stability; (b) sustainable livelihoods; (c) basic social services.
The programme currently in progress invests in three broad areas - Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender Equality, and Population and Development, touching on the cross-cutting themes -- humanitarian assistance and youth and development, and is focused mainly in four provinces -- Bamiyan, Daikundi, Badakhshan, Faryab. Selection of these provinces was based on the following criteria jointly set by the government, UN Country Team and UNFPA:
(a) high incidence of poverty due to factors including large underserved populations;
(b) high rates of maternal and infant mortality;
(c) large internal migrant populations;
(d) presence of ethnic minority populations;
(e) local community's openness to change;
(f) continuity of the previous programme;
(g) local government support;
(h) minimum required levels of stability and security; and
(i) opportunities for joint programming with other UN agencies.
With violence and insecurity posing serious challenges to recovery and development efforts, UNFPA programs, while targeting the entire nation, concentrated most of their project implementation efforts in the relatively peaceful Northern and Central regions of the country. Rather than spread resources uniformly albeit thinly over the entire population, UNFPA initiated potentially replicable models of integrated development programs within its mandate, in selected pockets of communities that actively participated in identifying and prioritizing their needs, demonstrated a readiness for them, and were able and willing to come half-way to make them successful. This willingness to invest in their development promised to ensure ownership and sustainability of the programs beyond the life of external support.
As an agency embedded in the UN system, UNFPA believes in aligning its programs with those of other UN players to ensure optimum use of resources and to avoid needless duplication; this is exemplified in its leading the Gender-Based violence Sub-Cluster, and in its ‘Delivering as One' partnership with other UN agencies in Daikundi, one of its target provinces, to accelerate implementation of the National Advancement Plan for Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) in unison with other partners.