Building a Way Out of Poverty: UNDP Project Connects People to Schools, Hospitals, Markets

The newly 26-meter concrete bridge built by UNDP's NABDP in Qadam Shahli village of Uruzgan province. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / NABDP

Uruzgan, Oct 2015 – The village of Qadam Shahli is split right down the middle by a river. For years, the only way people from one side could visit family members living on the other was via a little wooden bridge.


Even that was not always possible because spring floods would wash the bridge away, leaving half the village cut off, not only from their relatives but also from the market, hospital, school and government services of the nearest town.


“When the wooden bridge was destroyed, people had to use an alternative 30 kilometers away,” recalls Asadullah, Chairman of the local District Development Assembly (DDA).


Children couldn’t go to school for as long as the waters remained high, farmers were unable to sell their crops or graze their herds, and the sick faced a long and painful ride by donkey to the nearest hospital.


“Most of the time, those sick people died because there was no way to get a car to our village,” says Haji Abdul Hadi, Secretary of the DDA.


To solve the problem, UNDP built a 26-meter concrete bridge that would never break no matter how high the water rose. Now all of Qadam Shahli’s 1,400 families are permanently connected to each other – and to the outside world.


“Before, I had to walk for two hours to get to school, and in the rainy season, I couldn’t go at all,” says 12-year-old Saifullah. “These days, it takes only 15 to 20 minutes.”


Patients can get to hospital even more quickly than that, and the bridge has also boosted local incomes.


“Not only can we can get our crops to market while they are fresh so we can sell them for more, we can also buy the things we need, like petrol, fertilizer, clothes and matches,” says local resident, Abdul Rashid.


Nationwide, Qadam Shali is not exceptional. Afghanistan is a land of beautiful mountains and valleys, but for the 70% of Afghans who live in the countryside, this beauty traps them in poverty. Since 2002, UNDP has built roads and bridges serving 5.4 million Afghans.


To make sure we are building what the people need where they need it, decisions are informed by elected DDAs in 338 districts. These DDAs and their members also receive support from UNDP to make sure they function efficiently.


This project is part of UNDP’s National Area-Based Development Project, which is supported by Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain. 


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