UN development agency co-sponsors meeting on Afghanistan's recovery

26 November 2001

An international conference on Afghanistan's reconstruction set to open tomorrow in Islamabad has attracted wide interest, including among Afghans, according to organizers of the meeting that is being co-sponsored by the United Nations development agency.

"Over 200 delegates have signed up, among them a number of Afghans whose knowledge of the country will be a critical contribution as the international assistance community prepares itself to support the recovery, reconstruction and development of Afghanistan," Dale Lautenbach, the spokesman for the meeting, told reporters in Islamabad.

The three-day conference, “Preparing for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction,” is sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The spokesman underscored the critical importance of parallel talks in Germany aimed at establishing a broad-based multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan. "A genuine long-term and sustainable reconstruction and development effort must be led by the people of Afghanistan themselves through their legitimate and recognized leaders," he said. "It is critical that the leadership which emerges for Afghanistan is in the driver's seat of this process."

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today stressed that participants must address the country's health situation. "The international community must now seize what is an excellent opportunity to turn the health situation around in Afghanistan," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland in a statement released at the agency's Geneva headquarters. "Aside from relieving the suffering, rebuilding the health sector is absolutely crucial for the future stability and socio-economic development of Afghanistan." She added that "investing in health… is investing in peace and prosperity."

With pregnancy-related complications killing one woman every 30 minutes in Afghanistan, the country urgently needs emergency obstetric care, according to WHO. At the same time, health care for young people is crucial, given that one fourth of all Afghan children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday.

Efforts are also required to control communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, measles, typhoid, meningitis and haemorrhagic fever, the agency said. Noting that over 2 million Afghans are estimated to suffer from mental health problems, WHO urged the re-establishment of mental health services to treat them. In addition, it called for immediate and long-term efforts to help injured persons so that the disabled can lead productive lives.

 

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