The UK is to help provide 3,800 new artificial limbs and 10,000 crutches for Afghan children and adults disabled during 30 years of conflict and extreme poverty, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced today on a visit to the country.
The effort is part of a 40% increase in the UK’s aid programme in Afghanistan, which includes extra help for children and families who have been blighted by decades of war.
UK aid is specifically to support the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to run a network of seven orthopaedic centres across Afghanistan to assist those affected by the resulting mobility disabilities, including hundreds of mine victims.
At the centre in Kabul, Andrew Mitchell met Qabila, aged ten, and accompanied her on her walking practice. She told him that she had been climbing a mountain two weeks ago with her friends and had stood on a mine. She had been staying in hospital accommodation for the last two weeks but will be going home after Eid on 6 November.
During the visit, Andrew Mitchell also launched a new fund that will help ordinary Afghans to challenge abuse of powers and expose corruption, and announced extra funding for a scheme to employ people in traditional Afghan trades.
The International Development Secretary emphasised that the new measures were part of the UK’s long-term development commitment to the country, which was focussed on improving the lives of people affected by poverty and war. Mr Mitchell emphasised that British aid support would continue long after transition.
Andrew Mitchell said:
“It is heartbreaking to meet young children who have lost arms and legs as a result of landmines and explosions. The UK is providing practical help that will improve their day to day life immeasurably, while our wider aid efforts mean they can hope for a brighter future too.
“British aid is making a difference on the ground but we must never forget the scale of the challenges Afghanistan faces. We need a sustained push to ensure we continue to make progress, which is why we have increased our aid programme by 40% and why we will continue to support the country through transition and beyond.”
UK support will:
Help wounded and disabled children. In addition to providing people with prosthetics and helping with mobility, the centres help people get back to normal life by providing them with access to education, the chance to learn a skill or a loan to start a small business. So far, some 104,000 patients have been registered across all seven centres, with over 15,000 artificial legs and arms manufactured every year.
Create new jobs and revitalise craftsmanship. UK aid money will support the innovative Turquoise Mountain Institute in Kabul, which provides job opportunities for local people through revitalising traditional Afghan design and craftsmanship. The Institute - backed by HRH Prince Charles and President Karzai - has won widespread praise for rediscovering and preserving ancient Afghan heritage and jobs. The new UK funding will enable 180 Afghans to learn vital skills which will equip them with a livelihood for the future.
Help ordinary people to expose corruption. The new Tawanmandi fund - which means strengthening in Dari - will help Afghan civil society to hold their government to account, promote transparency and human rights and challenge abuses of power. The new scheme will provide grants to Afghan civil society organisations to work throughout the country, focussing on more vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, disabled and regional organisations.