A Bridge to a Better Future - One of Nearly 600 UNDP Transport Projects
Panjshir, 27 January 2015 — Panjshir Valley, a 2-hour drive north of Kabul, is known for its scenic mountains and crystal clear rivers. It remains one of the safest places in Afghanistan as its sky-high mountains and narrow roads are a natural barrier against terrorism. Its beauty attracts local families from nearby provinces to visit for picnics, fishing, photography and swimming.
Tucked in the valley is the village of Ghozo-Omerz. About 300 families live here but for a long time, their only access to the main road was a shaky bridge made of wood and pieces of metal. When the river water was high due to rain and melting snow, the villagers faced isolation. During these times, life was harder and food ran short.
Villagers died crossing the dangerous bridge, which was especially unsafe for old people and children. To go to school, some kids either risked their lives or walked all the way to another village. But most chose not to send their children to school at all.
“I’ve witnessed many villagers who have fallen into the river. Some of them survived, some did not,” said Mohammad Bashir, a 51-year-old resident of the village. “A young villager was one of the victims. He was healthy and strong but accidentally slipped and lost his life.”
Then, in October 2013, through the support of UNDP, the Community Development Council and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), a $325,000 all-weather concrete bridge was completed in Ghozo-Omerz. It is 40 meters long and 5 meters wide.
This development changed everyone’s life. Attendance rates at local schools shot up and the entire village suddenly had easy access to a nearby hospital.
“I will never forget how this bridge helped me and my family,” said Rahmatullah, another villager. “I used this bridge to take my wife to hospital when she gave birth. God knows what would have happened if there had been no bridge to drive quickly to the hospital.”
There is no way to significantly reduce poverty in Afghanistan without a strong focus on agriculture, rural employment generation, the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and the development of rural infrastructure. To this end, UNDP works with the MRRD and District Development Assemblies to implement rural infrastructure projects.
These bring clean water, reliable energy, irrigation for livestock and crops, roads and bridges. They also improve access to basic services and help to protect against natural disasters.
The Ghozo-Omerz bridge is just one of 556 transportation related projects. UNDP is working on rural development in all 34 provinces and more than three-quarters of all districts. In the past 11 years, we have implemented nearly 4,000 projects reaching about 25 million beneficiaries.
This work is part of UNDP’s National Area-Based Development Programme and is supported by Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Spain and UNHCR.