IRC Programs in Afghanistan
The IRC is one of the largest and longest-standing aid organizations working in Afghanistan. We began working with Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan in 1980 and launched programs inside Afghanistan in 1988.
The IRC has earned the trust of local people through our commitment to the region, rooted in the belief that we must support local communities to achieve gender-equitable, sustainable development and reduce dependency on international assistance. The programs work to achieve durable solutions for our communities, and are grounded in the five guiding principles of Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Participation, Capacity Building, Partnership and Holistic Programming.
In Fiscal Year 2008, the IRC ran programs from six offices in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar, Paktya, Logar and Khost provinces with a total budget of almost US$ 9.5 million. We have approximately 540 employees, of whom 98 percent are Afghan nationals. Funding during Fiscal Year 2008 was provided by the Government of Afghanistan, US Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), USAID, US Displaced Children and Orphan’s Fund (DCOF), the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), EuropeAid, Stichting Vluchteling (SV), private foundations, as well as individual donors.
Governance and Rights: After three decades of war, Afghanistan and its people suffer from severely weakened political institutions and confidence in the country’s political systems is seriously undermined. The IRC is a leading partner of the Afghanistan government’s National Solidarity Program, which works to address these issues. The program lays the foundation for community-level governance by helping communities identify, plan and manage their own development projects.
Over the past five years, the IRC has helped to establish 1,475 community-elected Community Development Councils in 22 districts in four provinces, as well as establishing eight District Development Assemblies. In turn, the councils have spearheaded over 1,500 projects with a total budget of US$ 168 million, ranging from the constructions of roads, schools, hospitals and irrigation systems to the creation and implementation of literacy and vocational education classes. In 2009, this work will continue as IRC expands its governance work to new communities and builds on its work in communities where it currently operates. In addition, the IRC will further develop our governance programming to support the promotion of human rights.
Child and Youth Protection and Development: For over 10 years, the IRC’s education program has established quality community-based education in villages where there are no schools. The IRC establishes community-based schools in rural areas, trains teachers, establishes school management committees, conducts adult literacy and early childhood development classes and supplies classrooms with education materials. As part of Partnership for Advancing Community-based Education in Afghanistan (PACE-A), the IRC is working in five provinces to bolster Afghanistan’s education system and providing education support to former refugees who have returned home.
The IRC works closely with the Ministry of Education and since 2004 has integrated more than 550 community-based classes into the government education system. In 2007, 61 classes comprising 1,866 students were handed over to the government education system.
Since 2003, the IRC’s child protection program has worked to decrease risks to children’s wellbeing. In 2005, the IRC began to help children with hearing and visual impairments attend mainstream government schools. In 2007, this project was expanded to four additional provinces in conjunction with the community-based education project.
Economic Recovery and Development: Recent changes in the Afghanistan’s political, economic and social environment have created a high demand for skilled workers, which cannot be met by the current labor market. In this changing environment, many people lack the necessary skills to earn a living. Poverty is widespread and the overall unemployment rate is estimated at 40 percent.
The IRC’s Economic Recovery and Development team assesses market and labor opportunities and works with local partners to train people in a range of construction, technical, mechanical, service and agriculture skills through center-based training and apprenticeships with master trainers. In addition to these vocational skills, program participants are taught basic literacy, math and business development skills. Each participant receives a toolkit and materials tailored to his/her particular skill training. The IRC targets vulnerable men and women such as the unemployed and under-employed, widows, orphans, former combatants, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, religious and ethnic minorities, and both urban and rural poor.
Returnee Reintegration: From 2002-2007, more than 3.5 million refugees returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran. The communities to which they are returning, ravaged by war and drought, often lack basic resources to safely support the existing population, let alone additional returnees. Since 1990, the IRC has worked with returned refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable host communities to address critical water, sanitation, irrigation and shelter needs.
The IRC digs wells and builds water supply networks and irrigation systems for people who have no or limited access to water. We also construct shelters for people without a home, build latrines and conducts hygiene training to reduce death and illness associated with water-borne and sanitation-related diseases.
In 2008, returnee reintegration activities have been expanded to include child protection, economic recovery and community-driven reconstruction in and around the Afghanistan government’s Land Allocation Scheme sites for refugee returnees, as well as in communities of high refugee return in eastern Afghanistan.