The roof of Noorgul Central Clinic in desperate need of repair. Photo: ACTION Project

 

Noorgul central clinic lies in the Noorgul district of the mountainous and rainy Kunar province, Mazar Dara area. Old and dilapidated, with a damaged roof leaking rainwater into treatment rooms, the clinic has been in urgent need of vital repair works to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of its health services. A controlling presence of the Taliban renders the region insecure, unstable, and lacking government monitoring, increasing the likelihood of corruption and/or embezzlement of funds.

One particularly brave and perserving volunteer of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, repeatedly raised the issue of the leaking roof with relevant officials. Promises were made to carry out repairs, but no direct action was taken. The condition of the clinic deteriorated daily. In raising the issue at the Sectorial Monitoring Group meeting organised by the District health officials, the Integrity volunteer learned that funding for the repair work had already been allocated by the MoPH, however the contractor had taken payment for services without actually completing the work.

Although first identified on 3 November 2020, the ongoing problem of the damaged roof was having a significant and detrimental impact to the running of the clinic. Recognising the severity of the problem, the UNDP advocated at both district and provincial levels, working through the CSO partner. The Ghorzang Charity Foundation also carried out advocacy efforts with officials- including health officials- at provincial level, who then acknowledged the need for vital repair of the clinic and the attendant problem of corruption.

The UNDP’s targeted advocacy at different levels and awareness-raising through multiple channels, inspired community members to actively hold to account the Kunar Directorate of Public Health for failing to address the corruption. Individuals shared their complaints and expressed their personal disappointment via social media. As a result of this collaborative action, the Directorate summoned the contractor and ordered repairs to the clinic to be completed. At the time of writing, repairs are ongoing.

Community members were anxious that the Integrity volunteer might be in danger for directly challenging corruption. The Integrity volunteer responded: “By law every Afghan citizen has the right to monitor public services in their areas. If we do not fight against corrupt people in the health sector, we will suffer the consequences and they will continue to deprive us of the rights we are entitled to.”

There are many other regions in Afghanistan where clinics cannot offer even rudimentary health services. It is integral to recognise that people in war-torn areas are not only suffering severely as a direct result of war, but are also deprived of some of the very basic necessities of life. Yet how encouraging it is to see that people do use their rights to monitor health services, and consequently can help prevent corruption, and through civic engagement with officials, can effectively collaborate to solve local problems. Sometimes, the integrity of one brave volunteer is the first step.

This initiative is part of UNDP Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption, Transparency, Integrity and Openness (ACTION) project to increase public trust in, and transparency of, Afghan Security and Justice institutions and is generously funded by Royal Danish Embassy.

 

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