Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

"Those of us who had to run are coming back, and we see this new market you have helped us start and we feel hopeful. As long as America is with us, we will start our new lives."

At the request of the Bamiyan Business Association, USAID provided a $36,000 grant to provide materials and labor for rebuilding the Shahidan Market which has brought new life and activity into the bazaar. The debris was cleared from the sidewalks and streets, while new blue doors mark each business stall. The president of the business association reports that fifty stalls were opened, and he believes that more merchants will return.

On November 20, 2002, five thousand girls walked in the doors of the Sultana Razia Girls' School after being banned for more than six years. Located in Mazar-e-Sharif, this school is one of the largest girls' schools in northern Afghanistan. USAID helped with the renovation which cost more than $200,000 and included the restoration of thirty-two fully functional classrooms. This project is one of many which are part of a joint initiative between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States to build or rehabilitate 1,000 schools over the next three years.

Established in 1956, the Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan is responsible for fiscal policy, customs, national budgeting, and taxation. USAID provided approximately $15 million for the Ministry of Finance operations and committed an additional $60 million to be used over three years to support the recent currency exchange, fiscal reform, customs reform, commercial law reform, national budgeting process changes, and tax administration and policy reforms.

Located in the Hindu Kush mountains at an altitude of 11,100 feet, the Salang Tunnel links the main road between north and south Afghanistan. During fighting in 1998 between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, the tunnel’s southern entrance and entire ventilation system were destroyed. Opening the tunnel was critical for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, economic development, and essential travel by Afghans

Never before in the country’s history has the central government been be able to communicate directly with all of the provinces, nor the provinces with each other. This lack of communication made it difficult to govern effectively.

"If the tunnel is open and the road is good, my income will go higher and the whole world will be happy. Then I will have no headache."

Most of the fields in the Fatmasti Valley of Bamyan Province were not cultivated for years after war and drought forced most of the people in the valley to flee to Iran. Since agriculture is a way of life for 70 percent of Afghanistan's people, building the canal and other infrastructure is key to re-establishing this crucial source of income.

For women in Afghanistan, the Taliban years were a time of deprivation and second-class status. Most of them were banned from working outside the home. This was particularly hard on widows. There are an estimated 50,000 war widows in Kabul alone who need to work to support their children. Under the Taliban, the widows’ bakeries were usually permitted to operate. Still, there were arbitrary arrests and beatings of women working at them, and bakeries were shut down at whim.