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.

USAID completed the rebuilding of Afghanistan's national road system (also known as the "Ring Road") which links its two largest cities and economic centers.

Recent floods have put deep scars in the land along the roads in Afghanistan. Large stones and huge gashes - two or three feet deep - run from the nearby hills through the farmland, tracing the flood’s path. Compounded with the devastation of war, development experts also cite erosion and lack of quality workmanship as major factors for Afghanistan’s poor road system. In addition, the community’s duty to provide regular maintenance to the roads have been overlooked.

Sixty-four-year-old Habiabdul Habib and his family returned to their home in Paghman from Pakistan five years ago after spending twelve years living as refugees while their home was destroyed by Taliban and Northern Alliance fighters. But when they returned home to Afghanistan they met another foe: drought.

In a landlocked country where only 12 percent of the land is arable, irrigating land is limited to three options: canals fed by river and rain, a natural spring, or the ancient underground aquifer known as karez. For the farmer fortunate enough to cultivate a sliver of the available 78,240 hectares of Afghan land, only an estimated 20 to 40 percent of canal-irrigated land was available for harvest in 2002 due to insufficient seed and water for irrigation. “For only two months each year, the canal is full of water from the Pulealam River,” says 45-year-old Mohammed Shah. “That’s ten months without water, including the entire summer.

USAID’s income-generating program provided Aliachmad with the necessary tools—yarn and a refurbished loom—to reestablish his reputation in the village as the patu expert. Aliachmad have a lifetime’s worth of skill, but lack materials and start-up cash.

The collapsed and broken skeletons of washed-out dams were clearly visible under the rushing waters of the Ghorband River in Parwan’s Charikar district. Heaps of stone and sandbags were no match for the powerful spring floods that carry boulders the size of small cars. For years, the task of building and maintaining the dams, as well as clearing the canals of debris, was the responsibility of area farmers. They performed this work on an irregular, ad hoc basis under extreme conditions with local conflict concerning water rights. Farmers would often leave their land for weeks at a time to band together to build the new dams or clean the canals.

For those families without access to any other means of irrigation and struggling through food shortages, USAID has introduced drip irrigation to Afghanistan. Four local NGO partners selected 56 families, including Omid’s, in the provinces of Kabul and Parwan to participate in the program.

Afghan parents face a harsh reality in child-rearing — an under-five mortality rate of 257 dead children per 1,000 living. Unclean drinking water contributes significantly to those harsh numbers. Severe cases of diarrheal disease were on the rise in Kabul in 2003, with an estimated 7,800 reported each week. Many rural villages turned to chlorination when available — but the chlorination campaign did not reach Kulanghar in the Logar district.

In a country where many rural teachers have no more than a primary school education, teacher training is critical to the nation’s education system in Afghanistan. USAID is focused on renovating the teacher training colleges in Afghanistan, while the country’s government is providing training for thousands of its teachers throughout the country to ensure Afghan children a brighter and more prosperous future.