The Afghanistan Studies Centre of the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) organized a lecture on Health and Education in Afghanistan at the Conference Room, Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, JMI on Thursday, 21 November, 2013. The lecture was delivered by Dr. Ghulam Dastagir Sayed, an Afghan national working for the World Bank in Kabul.
Dr. Syed talked at length about the current status of health especially primary health in Afghanistan and also shed some light on the current status of education in the country. It should be noted that primary and secondary health care is free in Afghanistan but there are also private healthcare facilities which are costly but provide better treatment.
From 2002 to the present time, the status of both health and education has improved a lot but “media only highlights the bad news about the country”, said Sayed. However, on the security front, Afghanistan is still one of the most challenging places in the world to work especially for women, he maintained.
The reasons which were worrisome in 2002 are still there, said he. These include poverty, lack of physical infrastructure, child mortality, shortage of health workers, especially female health workers, inequitable distribution of services, lack of clinics in remote areas, lack of accountability, etc. According to Dr. Sayed some of these things have improved to a good extent, but a lot more still needs to be done.
Dr. Rani D. Mullen, Associate Professor, Government Department College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA and a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar at JMI who coordinated the programme said that while many things were not shown positively by the media, but analytical assessment by the academia shows some optimistic picture of Afghanistan. She said that from the heavy losses and abysmal social security indicators of 2002 significant gains had been made in areas of health, education and many other sectors.
While international media are mostly reporting negative aspects about Afghanistan, the local media and community-based modes of communication are helpful in creating awareness about different schemes and projects and are instrumental in spreading positive stories, said Dr. Sayed.
Education is government system and unlike Pakistan, the number of madrasas in Afghanistan is very few and they are community based and community financed. Although there are 14,000 schools in the country, this number is less as an estimated 4 million children of primary school age are out of school.
After the sorry status of 2002, major worry for Afghanistan was about finance, said he adding that World Bank, USAID and European Union are the three major financers of health services in Afghanistan.
On the question of state sovereignty of Afghanistan being undermined by the heavy presence of international NGO’s and civil society bodies, Dr. Sayed said, “Earlier we had international NGOS but now many good local NGOs are working especially for health in Afghanistan”.
As international forces are about to pull out of Afghanistan and donors are likely to have an “aid fatigue”, some of the future challenges for Afghanistan, said Dr. Sayed, would be about “financing” and role of the “central government versus provincial governments”. The country will also be faced with the problem of approach like “contracting-in” and “contracting-out” for delivery of health services, skills training, etc.
The lecture was followed by a long question and answer session in which participants asked several questions. Dr Ajay Darshan Behera, Dr K. N. Tennyson, Dr. Angira Sen Sarma, research scholars and students were present.
The lecture was organized as part of a series of activities for an ongoing six-week long seminar course on State Rebuilding in Afghanistan. Earlier, on 6 November and 18 September, 2013 the Centre had screened two movies “Kandahar” and “The Kite Runner” respectively.