From Rubble to Schools and Clinics: UMCOR Begins New Project in Afghanistan
UMCOR Afghanistan will rehabilitate up to 60 schools and health clinics in the Kabul region of Afghanistan with a grant valued at US$ 4.6 million.
Paul Dirdak, chief executive of UMCOR, said that the funds were awarded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). One of the reasons USAID selected UMCOR as the general contractor of the quick-impact project is the agency's performance in past projects, Mr. Dirdak said. Other USAID criteria include program budget, implementation plan and competitiveness.
"The new Afghan project, renovating schools and clinics, is a wonderful extension of the work of UMCOR," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Five years of drought, 23 years of war and decades of displacement for millions of residents have taken their toll on basic elements of society in Afghanistan. For example, scores of children study under shade trees, in tents or in shattered buildings. Basic healthcare services are simply unavailable to thousands who have returned to their pre-war homes since 2001, when the Taliban regime fell.
Only piles of rubble remain in the region where the rebuilding will occur. The rubble offers bleak reminders of once-thriving homes, schools, villages, and public buildings. UMCOR community assessment teams, working with Afghan health and government officials and the returnees themselves, indicated that medical clinics and schools will provide major sources of stability for future recovery.
The USAID grant comes to the agency as it continues work on other construction projects in Afghanistan. UMCOR has completed 200 houses in the Shomali Valley region and anticipates finishing another 140 houses in the coming months. As general contractor for the new project, UMCOR will subcontract work to local firms in the provinces of Kabul, Kapisa and Parwan.
As is its practice in all projects, UMCOR will involve community leaders in the planning and implementation of the renovation projects to ensure buy-in and community stability, Mr. Dirdak pointed out. To achieve these goals the agency will invite local leaders to sign memoranda of understanding regarding use of structures, and confirming support for the construction in each location.
This level of community 'ownership' of projects is critical, particularly with regard to schools. UMCOR will rebuild schools for both boys and girls. Under the Taliban, girls and women were forbidden to attend school.