Wednesday, January 06, 2010

feeding insurgency

BBCNews | "The malnutrition problem in Afghanistan, and especially Parwan province, is very bad. That's because of the years of fighting, the damage to our infrastructure and rising unemployment.

"It's all helped to make things worse," he said.

Deep discontent
The statistics bear him out: officially, unemployment is about 40%, though it is probably far higher than that; of those who do have a job in Parwan, 45% earn less than $1 a day; chronic malnutrition for children under five across Afghanistan is 54%.

And perhaps most surprising of all, on a UN scale of human development indicators, Afghanistan has slipped from 117th in the world, to 181st - second from the bottom - since the Taliban were ousted.

Professor Sayed Massood, an economist from Kabul University, believes that backsliding is responsible for much of the deep discontent with the government, and growing support for the insurgency.
Vegetables for sale at a market
Even farm workers are suffering from malnutrition

He blames the crisis of public confidence on the policy of pouring billions of dollars in development aid into regions where the insurgency is strongest.

"Instead of the benefits [of aid] going to friends, they are going to enemies. We needed to spend money in the places where the people believe in democracy and work for the government.

"But instead only the enemies are getting rich," he said.

"We need to set examples of peaceful provinces that are also prosperous, but that's just not happening."

Prof Massood argues that the international community has adopted an aid policy that has been entirely counter-productive.

"They have politicised aid; they have tried to use their money to bring about political change in the frontline provinces - they have tried to bribe their enemies.

"But they don't understand that it works the other way around. If you improve the economics of the people, the politics will follow. If you don't, you will lose them."

That might explain why the insurgency appears to be spreading to parts of the country that until now have been relatively peaceful.