WASHINGTON, December 16, 2010 ─ The World Bank today approved an additional $40 million grant to continue supporting the Government of Afghanistan’s ongoing efforts to provide year-round access to basic services and facilities in rural areas.
The Afghanistan National Emergency Rural Access Project (NERAP), launched in 2002 as one of four National Priority Programs, has rehabilitated some 10,370 kilometers of rural roads connecting 8,726 villages in 358 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, reducing travel times and increased rural Afghans’ access to key services. The project has also rehabilitated 15,000 hectares of land by improving irrigation and drainage while providing employment opportunities to impoverished rural men, creating around 700,000 temporary jobs over a month-long period while facilitating reintegration of ex-combatants into society.
“Improving road access for rural communities is important for social and economic development,” said HE Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, Minister of Finance, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “For example, improved roads will enable the Ministry of Education to implement its programs more easily. Better connectivity also gives villagers better access to health facilities. Farmers will have improved access to markets, supporting village economic development.”
Despite these efforts, rural poverty remains high as the country recovers from the long-term effects of decades of conflict and 6 years of drought. More investments are needed to improve the rural road network and offer year round access to basic social and administrative services along with providing employment opportunities to the estimated 70 percent of the population that still lack these provisions.
“Afghanistan’s progress in developing its rural road network is commendable”, said Nicholas J. Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “Where roads have been rehabilitated, travel time has reduced considerably and more rural Afghans now have easier access to key services such as education, health as well as markets. However many challenges remain, including scaling up on the successes achieved so far. The Bank is happy to support the Government in its efforts to make rural Afghanistan accessible to all.”
NERAP is one part of the broader effort by the Government of Afghanistan to rehabilitate its existing road network. Since 2002 with support from the international community, the Government of Afghanistan has embarked on a massive nationwide rehabilitation program of the existing core road network of 34,700 km. This core network consists of 3,300 km of regional highways (3,100 km paved and 200 km gravel), 4,800 km of national highways (2,800 km paved and 2,000 km gravel), 9,600 km of provincial roads (1,400 km paved and 8,200km gravel), and of secondary rural roads 17,000km (480 km paved and 16,820 km gravel. This network is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Works. There is an estimated 80,000km of tertiary road network (low volume gravel to earthen surface roads) across the country, under the administration of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation.
As a program of national priority, NRAP continues to be scaled up by the World Bank and its development partners. With the additional US$40 million grant approved today, total World Bank support has reached US$211 million since 2003. ARTF has also recently approved a US$50 million grant to co-finance the program with continuing implementation by The Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.