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World Bank provides further support to Afghanistan's national rural access program

Washington, December 13, 2007 (The World Bank Group): The World Bank today approved a US$112 million grant to support the Government of Afghanistan's efforts to provide year-round access to basic services and facilities in rural areas.

The Afghanistan National Emergency Rural Access Project will reconstruct and rehabilitate some 2000 km of secondary and tertiary roads, which will reduce travel time to rural schools, health care facilities, and administrative services. It will also launch a pilot rural road maintenance program which will be implemented through the Community Development Councils.

Afghanistan's progress in development of road networks has been impressive. Travel times have been reduced and more rural Afghans have access to key services. However, rural poverty remains high as the country recovers from the long-term effects of the nearly thirty years of conflict and a recently ended six-year drought.

"Lack of rural access is one of the main causes of rural poverty," said Susanne Holste, Senior Transport Specialist and Project Team Leader. "This project will help rural Afghans gain access to critical services. It will also help integrate the village economy with regional and national markets, leading to better allocation of resources, technology transfer, and higher productivity."

The Government of Afghanistan launched the National Emergency Employment Program (NEEP) in 2002 as one of four National Priority Programs designed to provide targeted social protection for vulnerable groups throughout the country. Since its establishment, NEEP which later became the National Rural Access Program (NRAP) has been implemented through major projects financed by the World Bank, the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF).

Significant achievements have been made since 2002. Around 9,333 km of rural roads in 293 districts of Afghanistan's 34 provinces and eight airstrips and airfields (Faizabad, Ghor, Faryab, Zaranj, Gardez, Badghis, Farah, and Kabul) have been rehabilitated. By the end of August 2007, approximately 3025 ex-combatants and rural poor had completed their work-based training in road construction and crafts, combined with the academic training at vocational institutions through the JSDF-financed National Emergency Employment Program for Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration, and Rural Livelihood Support Project. In addition, over 13 million labor days have been generated since inception of the program.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be US$137 million of which US$112 million grant assistance is provided by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's concessionary lending arm, and the remaining US$25 million will be provided by the Government of Afghanistan from its own funding or from donor resources. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.