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'Nothing changes'

Naomi Conrad, Berlin / sbJanuary 17, 2014

The withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan at the end of the year will not deter German aid organization Welthungerhilfe. But in order to stabilize the country, more aid will be needed, the NGO, calls out.

Klaus Lohmann Welthungerhilfe in Afghanistan
Klaus Lohmann, right, is the Welthungerhilfe's project coordinator in AfghanistanImage: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V.

Afghanistan "is not only about bombs, burkas, violence and war," Klaus Lohmann corrects clichés while addressing journalists in Berlin. Since 2007, he has overseen the German NGO Welthungerhilfe's Afghanistan project in Kabul.

The country has, he stresses, made positive developments. At the table next to him, Mathias Mogge nods his head. Even if drug cultivation has increased, there has been progress over the past decade in the areas of drinking water supply, food security, health and education, explains the director of programs of the German aid organization, which has been active in Afghanistan since 1992. Now, he says, it is of vital importance to continue this work.

The Welthungerhilfe met with journalists in Berlin on Thursday, January 16, 2014, to get a message across: Afghanistan must continue to receive aid money for development even after the withdrawal of NATO soldiers at the end of the year. Funding is secure for this year and part of next year, Mogge said. But considering the drastic cutbacks in the aid budgets of the US and other countries, Mogge and Lohmann fear Germany could announce similar cutbacks. And the country is really in need of "larger efforts and more resources to stabilize the country." Mogge hopes money will be allocated for at least another 10 years.

An Afghan farmer walks in a field of roses
A project helps farmers grow crops of roses instead of opiumImage: Welthungerhilfe

"Faulty concept of net security"

But in addition to civilian help, the Afghan government must also get involved so the Welthungerhilfe can continue to work in the country, Mogge pointed out. Especially in the areas of justice and corruption, he sees a lot of "room and need for improvement." Even if the security situation is precarious, "nothing will change really" for the work carried out by the German organization, Lohmann believes. It is, however, important that local security units continue to receive support.

At the moment, there is no real threat to the Welthungerhilfe staff in the east and north of Afghanistan or in Kabul. He believes the situation will remain so because the organization practices a so-called acceptance strategy. That means the staff discusses and coordinates projects with all local partners - politicians, warlords, or Taliban leaders. The focal points of the organization's efforts there are on water, rural development and emergency assistance.

But for NGOs in Afghanistan which promote women's rights, there is a "whole different risk scenario," Lohmann admits. In some provinces, the organization's female staff also face restrictions in movement. Despite improvements, it is still dangerous for them to go out side at times.

Attacks on Afghan women surge

The Welthungerhilfe hopes the new German Development Minister Gerd Müller, of the conservative Christian CSU party, will distance himself from the term "net security," which foresees aid organizations carrying out their activities with the help of and under the protection of military and diplomatic help in war and crisis regions. In the last few years, a lot of pressure has been put on aid organizations to work more closely with the military. Mogge criticizes that. He said full cooperation with the military could never really be possible, as it puts the lives of the aid workers in danger. That is why the "faulty concept of net security" must be reconsidered, Mogge emphasizes.