independent

Friday 20 September 2019

Afghan work is paying off

FINTAN LAMBE

BALLYFAD charity worker Terence O'Malley, who has been a regular visitor to Afghanistan, says the country is now more insecure than ever.

Terence, who is chairman of the charity Safe (Support for Afghan Further Education), was speaking following a recent visit to the war-torn country, during which he inspected projects recently funded by the organisation.

He spent three weeks in the country late last year for what may well be his last visit there.

' The country now is more insecure,' he said. ' The rural areas are still neglected by the main Afghan government. Agriculture, health and education are still lacking.'

Among the Safe projects he visited was a water supply scheme in the West North West province of Bamyan. Around $94,000 was spent on this project through the Church of Ireland Bishops' Appeal non-designated income.

The project, which included 2.6 miles of plastic piping, 30 concrete tap stations, and three reservoirs, serving more than 270 families, and a health care clinic, schools and a police station, was built and completed in 2010.

' The water has been filtered and tested,' said Terence. 'I saw people washing their hands, and drinking it. It was wonderful.' He said the tap stations cut down on long walks for water. ' The elders considered it the best project they ever had in the district, and it was terrific,' he said. The scheme is fed by a spring that has never ceased to run.

Other projects visited included a refresher course for women who have been trained as traditional birth attendants, and a computer training course for boys and girls.

Terence said that he had been told by the female governor of the Bamyan province that girls had attended the Concorde University entrance exam for the first time, having attended the computer training course. ' They had bent traditions and taken the first steps forward,' he said.

During his visit, Terence also met with the acting minister for health to discuss a number of issues.

'I travelled with Afghans and we had no problem with security. I was dressed in Afghan clothes,' he explained. ' The only time they were nervous was when they were travelling through principally a Pashtun area. Bamyan is a Hazara area, and Pashtuns look down on Hazaras.'

' The road from Saigan City to the traditional birth attendants' training was hellish,' he added. 'It took about three and a half hours to do barely thirty miles. Basically it was a rutted track full of deep potholes. We also had to drive through a river at one stage because the road had been swept away by floods.'

He said there were also some nervous moments going through the passes, on the zig-zag bends where he was looking down a couple of thousand feet, praying the tyres had good enough threads for the dusty road. ' The roads are very narrow and through the passes, if you meet another vehicle, it's dicey and you are nervous,' he explained.

He said he has received a number of petitions for a number of similar water schemes, but they are all funding dependent. 'I told our local partner that we are not in a position to fund anything at the moment, but that we would appreciate receiving detailed proposals and budgets,' he said. 'All our 2010 projects are finished, so there's a pause now. Funding can only become available if we receive proposals and the proposal is acceptable and it is put to a donor, and the donor agrees.'

He said the latest money was very well spent. 'In this country, that water scheme would have cost several million euro, no question,' he said.

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