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Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much money was pledged by donors in Tokyo for Afghan reconstruction in 2002; how much money has been received for Afghan reconstruction; and how much of this money has been spent on (i) relief and (ii) reconstruction and development. [106917]

At the Tokyo conference in January 2002 donors pledged US$4.5 billion for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance over one to five years. As some donors made multi year pledges it is difficult to place a specific figure on how much of this aid was designated for 2002. However, over $1.8 billion was disbursed last year, with many donors providing more than their single year pledges or front-loading multi year pledges.It is very difficult to sustain a meaningful distinction between relief and reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan. We estimate that up to 50 per cent. of assistance last year was for humanitarian assistance. The trend towards a larger proportion of assistance being directed towards long term development will continue in the next and future years.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the slum areas arising around Kabul, Herat and other Afghan cities, with particular reference to the humanitarian conditions in these slum areas. [106918]

Urbanisation is a common phenomenon in developing countries in Asia. The situation is made particularly acute in Afghanistan by a combination of a shortage of shelter, due to the destruction of buildings caused by decades of conflict, and an increase in demand, caused by internal displacement of people to the cities and the return of 1.7 million Afghan refugees in 2002. 1.2 million more are expected to return in 2003. Limited or lack of employment opportunities in the rural areas add to the problem, with many rural inhabitants migrating to the cities.

Lack of adequate shelter in informal urban settlements is a major humanitarian concern in Afghanistan. This was particularly serious during the recent winter months. The UN, working with local Afghans as well as international NGOs, have been providing assistance to meet humanitarian needs throughout Afghanistan, including in these urban areas and in particular through their recent successful Winterisation Programme. For example, UNHCR is assisting in the sustainable re-integration of returning refugees. Their assistance includes immediate needs including cash, and shelter kits. UNICEF is also working to provide shelter, water/sanitation, health, nutrition, and education.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the rights of Afghan women outside Kabul. [106923]

The rights of Afghan women remain a concern throughout Afghanistan, although we welcome the recent signing on 5 March of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The UK will help Afghanistan to implement CEDAW, with access to services by women and girls being monitored as in those reconstruction programmes that we support. Access to healthcare and education for women and girls in rural areas continues to be a problem, although 1.5 million girls have returned to school as part of the ATA and UNICEF's Back-to School programme.Women's rights and access to services often vary between regions and provinces, however. In the north, for example, women hold senior positions in local government ministries and have influence in the local community. About a third of teachers in the north are women, and mixed classes of boys and girls are permitted. Approximately 30 per cent. of the students are girls.In other areas of the country, with different ethnic balances and different cultural and religious norms the situation is less advanced. We are concerned about the recent decree from Ishmael Khan in Herat, enforcing strict gender segregation in schools. As there is a shortage of female teachers in Herat, we understand that this may prevent women and girls from receiving an education.