The UK will commit £750m ($980 million USD) to help improve health, education and security in Afghanistan, under a major new funding announcement.
The money, welcomed by aid agencies on Saturday, is to be spent over three years and will have a particular focus on helping women and girls in the war-ravaged country.
Writing exclusively in The Independent, International Development Secretary Priti Patel said the boost would not only reduce misery and suffering in the world, but also serve Britain’s interests by stabilising the country and reducing the need for people to make perilous long-journeys to the UK.
This comes shortly after Theresa May travelled to the United Nations and the G20 to assure the world the UK would not turn in on itself following the Brexit Vote, but also to urge leaders to do more to tackle mass-migration.
Patel said: “The UK’s presence in Afghanistan over the last decade has helped improve security and prevent it from once again becoming a base of operations for global terrorists that would threaten the streets of Britain.
“We have improved the lives of Afghans significantly – with millions more children in school, better healthcare, and greater prosperity. But huge challenges remain – not least the continuing threat from the Taliban.
“That is why the UK will commit up to £750m, from the aid budget, to Afghanistan between 2017 and 2020 to help create a more stable country and improve people’s lives – particularly for women and girls.”
As well as spending on health and education services, the funding will contribute to the urgent UN flash appeal to help protect internally displaced people who have fled their homes, and clear land mines from areas where people live.
The HALO Trust, which helps to clear land mines and explosives said the funding is “very good news for the Afghan people”.
Director of Communications Paul McCann said: “Decades of conflict has bequeathed Afghanistan a very large mines and explosive remnants of war problem, so this announcement from the UK Government is very welcome. It builds on Britain’s strong commitment to mine clearance around the world.
“With funding Afghanistan can be made mine-free. Already around 80 per cent of the country has been cleared – the job can be finished. Mozambique was made mine-free last year and it also had a huge problem.
“Mines and other explosive remnants of war maim and kill boys and girls, men and women and hold back development. This is very good news for the people of Afghanistan.”
Only last month a Taliban suicide attack near in Kabul killed at least 24 people and wounded 91 others. But despite security being a major problem in Afghanistan, aid agencies continue vital work.
Chair of Afghanaid Chris Kinder said: “We know, through over 30 years of experience, that this kind of sustained funding is essential to reach the most vulnerable individuals.
“Afghanaid’s project, the Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme, was launched in 2013. It delivers essential livelihood training, as well as literacy and business knowhow. The programme has reached over 14,000 women.”