x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Khalifa charity preparing three more Afghan projects

Agreements will be signed with the World Food Programme, Save the Children and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the executive director says.

ABU DHABI // The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation will begin three more projects in the coming weeks to help the dire situation in Afghanistan, its executive director said yesterday. Mohammed al Khoori said the foundation was stepping up its support for the country, funding a series of projects focusing on health, sanitation, education, nutrition and food security.

Last week, the charity finalised agreements for projects with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and Oxfam UK. Mr al Khoori said these would be followed in the next couple of weeks by similar agreements with the World Food Programme, Save the Children and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Gain). Gain is an alliance of governments, international organisations, private sector and civil society, established to address poor childhood nutrition.

Mr al Khoori said the foundation had identified Afghanistan as a priority because of the dire need among the civilian population. "We see that there is a disaster in Afghanistan and the country is clearly in need," he said. "The five agreements will all be finalised this month. We tried to cover all of Afghanistan and each organisation is focusing on a different area and field." Dr Ayman Abu Laban, Unicef's representative in the Gulf region, was in the capital last week to sign the agreement for a project to distribute educational materials to more than 2.6 million pupils and 114,000 teachers.

Speaking by telephone from Riyadh, he said: "The population in Afghanistan is facing so many challenges, from development through to social and political challenges. "One of the major problems is access to basic education and our project will assist both boys and girls." Two million Afghan children are not enrolled in primary schools and the country is in need of 100,000 qualified primary school teachers, particularly women.

Part of the project's objective is to improve not just enrolment but attendance at primary schools. In particular, it hopes to contribute to a 20 per cent increase in the number of girls at primary school over the next five years. The project will start at the beginning of the new academic year and will provide school supplies for grades one to three. "This is basic assistance, but it is essential and will bring more children into the education system," Dr Abu Laban said.

Instability and conflict continue to threaten the civilian population, 70 per cent of whom live in poverty, according to Unicef. The infant, under-five, and maternal mortality rates are among the world's highest and twenty five per cent of children die before their fifth birthday. With immunisation coverage still very low, thousands of children die every year from preventable diseases, including malaria and measles. Most Afghans also lack access to safe water and sanitation.

Work on the Oxfam project, funded by the foundation, to improve access to health care, clean water, food and sanitation has already started. Mr al Khoori said the foundation was keen to ensure there was no duplication of the work of each partner organisation, describing the various projects as "complementary". He added that the charity planned to maintain a more engaged approach, with staff expected to visit the projects and receive training from the relevant organisations.

"We are not just a cashier, we want to be part of the projects and be fully engaged," he said. zconstantine@thenational.ae