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Overview of Australia’s aid program to Afghanistan

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $148.3 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $134.2 million

Australia continues to contribute to Afghanistan’s development, supporting the gains of the last decade. Afghanistan faces substantial challenges particularly as it undergoes three transitions: assuming responsibility for security by the end of 2014; undertaking presidential elections as the first peaceful change of executive power in Afghanistan's modern history; and responding to slowing economic growth as international forces draw down in Afghanistan.

Australia’s development assistance programme to Afghanistan is part of an integrated whole-of-government effort with security, diplomatic, and development objectives. The Development Framework Agreement 2012–17, signed by Australia and Afghanistan in July 2012, underlines both parties’ commitment to building the Afghan Government’s capacity to deliver basic services and provide economic opportunities to its people. The Afghan Government has agreed to make progress against commitments under the 2012 Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, including economic reform, governance, anti-corruption, elections, and human rights, including the rights of women and girls.

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, ranking 175th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. Poor governance, low institutional capacity, and corruption constrain Afghanistan’s development, limit options for effective aid delivery, and undermine Afghan and international confidence. Insecurity and instability are widespread and have the potential to halt and reverse development gains. Furthermore, Afghanistan is home to one of the most protracted, complex and severe humanitarian emergencies in the world, with almost a third of Afghans not regularly having enough food to eat, more than four million being displaced at any one time, and about a quarter of a million likely to suffer a natural disaster each year.

The situation for Afghan women and girls is particularly precarious. Gender inequality in Afghanistan is profoundly entrenched, with the country ranking almost at the bottom of the United Nations Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index. Gender-based violence is endemic, girls attend school for less than half the number of years of Afghan boys, and despite improvements in recent years, the maternal death rate, estimated at 1,400 per 100,000 births, is one of the highest in the world.

On current trends, largely due to the critically low base from which it is developing, Afghanistan is on track to achieve, or partially achieve, some of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UNDP assesses that Afghanistan is on track to realise universal education (MDG 2) and a 50 per cent reduction in maternal mortality ratio (MDG 5) by 2020. It is unlikely that the proportion of people affected by hunger and poverty will significantly decrease (MDG 1), or that the position of Afghan women will improve markedly (MDG 3).

In 2014-2015, Australia will support the Afghan Government deliver its national priority programmes, including in health, education, rural development and infrastructure, by contributing to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. Australia’s development assistance has four key strategic objectives:

Enhancing basic service delivery in health and education

Australia will enhance education in Afghanistan by expanding access to schools, improving education quality, and increasing the Afghan Government’s capacity to deliver education services.

Education assistance in Afghanistan

Supporting rural development and livelihoods

Australia will improve agricultural productivity by introducing more resilient varieties of wheat, provide job opportunities, and expand access to markets for Afghan families by helping them start locally-relevant, small-scale businesses.

Agriculture assistance in Afghanistan

Improving governance and the effectiveness of the Afghan Government

Australia will support the Afghan Government to become more effective by improving economic and structural reforms and public financial management, and support national efforts to protect and promote human rights, particularly the rights of Afghan women and girls.

Governance and human rights assistance in Afghanistan

Supporting vulnerable populations

Australia will respond to humanitarian needs as required. We will focus assistance on providing food for up to 1.9 million vulnerable Afghans, and by removing mines and explosive remnants of war.

Humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan

Our results

National level results to 2013 (by pooling funds with other donors through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund)

  • increased access to basic health care services to around 85 per cent of the population
  • increased school enrolments from around one million in 2001 to more than eight million today, including over three million girls
  • improved maternal health care, with at least 74 per cent of pregnant women now receiving at least one antenatal health care visit
  • rehabilitated and maintained over 12,800 kilometres of rural roads providing over 15 million labour days of employment

Enhancing basic service delivery in health and education

  • funded health services to more than two million people beyond the reach of Afghanistan’s national health care through the Australian Red Cross
  • vaccinated more than 596,000 children against polio and more than 198,000 children against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus
  • provided education to 8929 children, including 3150 girls, through Empowerment Through Education and the Children of Uruzgan Program

Supporting rural development and livelihoods

  • provided food assistance to almost six million men, women and children in 2012, and over 28 million beneficiaries since 2009, through the World Food Programme
  • supporting the Government of Afghanistan to develop a Dryland Farming Strategy, which will guide future investments in agriculture
  • providing 2,000 farmers with access to improved agricultural training and technologies
  • rehabilitated and maintained of over 12,800 kilometres of rural roads

Improving governance and the effectiveness of the Afghan Government

  • trained 500 public servants, which helped increase budget execution rates in Afghan Government service delivery ministries (51 per cent in 2012, to 57 per cent in 2013)
  • contributed to a 30.8 per cent improvement in public expenditure and financial accountability (PEFA) budget cycle indicators for line ministries between 2008 and 2013. This has seen improvements in the credibility, comprehensiveness, transparency, and external scrutiny of the budget, as well as predictably and control of budget execution
  • trained more than 600 journalists to report on elections, enabling impartial and educational news content to reach remote communities across the country for the 2014 presidential elections
  • through Australia’s support Australia’s partnership with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, protect and promote human rights including the launch of the first national inquiry into honour killing and rape, bringing to light issues that had long been taboo in Afghanistan
  • provided services to 1397 women and girl survivors of violence
  • trained 3586 men and women on women’s rights and EVAW law

Supporting vulnerable populations

  • supported more than 170,000 people across all 34 provinces with food assistance including 78,000 women and girls
  • cleared more than 700 mines and 7,000 explosive remnants of war from 3.3 million square metres of hazardous land in Afghanistan, benefitting more than 61,000 Afghans
  • provided more than 4,000 Afghans with prosthetic, orthotic, physiotherapy and health education services and taught more than 200,000 people how to identify, avoid, and mitigate the impacts of mines and explosive remnants of war on their lives

Related documents

For more information on the administration, management and objectives of Australia’s programme in Afghanistan, read:

Agriculture assistance in Afghanistan


Agriculture is the foundation of Afghanistan’s economy, and is a key contributor to improving economic livelihoods in the country. Eighty per cent of the population lives in rural areas and engages in subsistence or income-based agriculture or agriculture related activities. Yet the agriculture productivity is poor, and livelihood opportunities are limited.

Supporting Afghanistan’s rural economy is critical to the country’s long-term economic growth, and to both food and national security. Australia’s assistance in this sector seeks to address the very basic needs that exist in food security and agricultural productivity, and focuses on three areas: subsistence livelihood security, agricultural livelihood productivity, and agricultural livelihood services.

Related initiatives

Improved productivity of water scarce farming systems through adaptive research (ACIAR)

$17.7 million, 2012-2016

The ACIAR program improves and sustains productivity of Afghan farming systems in water scarce environments through three adaptive research projects: grain productivity, livestock productivity, and water managements in targeted Afghanistan farming systems.

Australian Afghanistan community resilience scheme (AACRS)

$25 million, 2014-2018

The AACRS promotes small-scale, inclusive private sector growth and resilience to shocks in rural Afghanistan through improved agricultural productivity and market linkages. It will be implemented as a partnership between the Australian Government, the Government of Afghanistan and up to five international development NGOs.

Education assistance in Afghanistan


Less than half of Afghanistan’s population is illiterate, with women particularly disadvantaged. Education under Taliban rule was highly restricted, with fewer than one million children, almost all boys, in school. School enrolments have now increased to almost eight million students, including around three million girls, the largest figures in the history of Afghanistan. But there are still major barriers to education, including a shortage of teachers and limited formal training.

Australia is helping Afghanistan ensure more children can access education by supporting school places in the country’s poorest and most remote districts. Australia is assisting Afghanistan to improve service delivery in education by expanding access to schools, improving the quality of teaching, and improving the Government of Afghanistan’s capacity to deliver education services. Australia’s support enables more children, particularly girls, to attend school and receive longer and better education. This provides Afghanistan’s next generation with the skills to help build their own futures and, in time, overcome poverty.

Related initiatives

Children of Uruzgan

$35.7 million, 2011-2015

The Children of Uruzgan program is delivered by Save the Children. The program enhances access, quality and use of basic education and health services for children and their families living in Uruzgan, with a particular focus on women, girls and those in remote and unserved communities.

Empowerment Through Education

$5.4 million, 2011-2015

Empowerment Through Education is delivered by CARE Australia. The program targets school-aged children in remote rural areas in three provinces of Kapisa, Khost and Parwan to improve the quality of and access to community-based education: build girls’ leadership skills; and builds networks to advocate for the rights of children and girls.

Governance and human rights assistance in Afghanistan


Weak governance, including low institutional capacity and corruption, are major constraints to Afghanistan’s development. Political stability is also fragile and Afghanistan faces major constraints to economic growth.

Democratic, transparent and credible elections are crucial to sustainable transition in Afghanistan and are a key commitment for sustaining international donor support. Through this initiative, Australia is supporting the capacity building of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan and the development of public advocacy and outreach campaigns.

Related initiatives

Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF)

$333.6 million, 2003-2015

The World Bank delivered ARTF is a multi-donor trust fund bringing greater coordination to development assistance in Afghanistan. The ARTF is administered by the World Bank under strict fiduciary controls with funding disbursed in accordance with jointly agreed donor and Afghan government priorities.

Public Financial Management Program

Funding TBC

The program supports key service delivery ministries in Afghanistan (Education; Public Works; Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; and Public Health) to improve their budget planning, project design, procurement and financial administration capacity.

Elimination of Violence Against Women

$17.7 million, 2013-2016

Australia is providing more than $17million for the Afghanistan Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Program to help prevent and respond to violence against women in Afghanistan. Australia’s support builds on national efforts, including working through Afghan civil society and women’s organisations, to increase women’s access to support services, improve women’s access to justice and strengthen violence prevention activities.

Election support

$22 million, 2011-2015

Australia is supporting the electoral process in Afghanistan, including Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2015. Australia is working with the Afghan Government, international partners and other donors to help build more effective electoral institutions and to increase voter participation through civic awareness.

Humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan


The World Food Program estimates that around a third of Afghanistan’s population—approximately eleven million people—are food insecure. Over half the children under five in Afghanistan suffer from stunting due to malnutrition. Around 250,000 people each year are seriously affected by natural hazards and disasters such as droughts, floods, earthquakes and extreme weather conditions. Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have generated the largest and most protracted refugee crisis in history.

Australia’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan focuses on food security and malnutrition, and demining. Improving food security is a precondition to other areas of development which are hindered by so many Afghan families being unable to adequately feed their families. While progress on mine clearance has been impressive—75 per cent of minefields have been cleared since 1988—the remaining 25 per cent still make Afghanistan one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world in the terms of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. These hazards continue to cause casualties and pose serious obstacles to sustainable development.

Last reviewed: 15 December, 2014