January 08, 2007 12:30 ET

Canada's New Government Announces Funding to Help Women and Reconstruction in Kandahar

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 8, 2006) - The Honourable Josee Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, accompanied by the Honourable Michael Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister responsible for Greater Montreal, today announced that Canada's New Government will provide $1.75 million to UNICEF for two projects supporting maternal health and women's literacy in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. The Minister also announced a $11.5 million Accelerated District Reconstruction Program to speed up reconstruction and development efforts throughout Kandahar Province. The announcement was made during a press conference hosted by UNICEF Canada.

"Today, Canada's New Government is providing two important contributions for Afghanistan that will improve the lives of Afghan women and ensure critical infrastructure is developed in Kandahar," said Minister Verner. "Our contribution to UNICEF helps to address critical issues facing Afghan women: maternal death in childbirth, and illiteracy. And our significant investment in the reconstruction program will ensure the Kandahar region gets the infrastructure it needs sooner."

Today's funding will support UNICEF in establishing a residential obstetric care facility in Kandahar City as well as to expand its literacy program throughout the province.

Nigel Fisher, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada, has previously worked on the ground in Afghanistan overseeing UN humanitarian operations. "The Canadian contribution announced today supports initiatives that are nothing short of vital. Providing mothers with the care they need to ensure the safe delivery of their babies, and supporting literacy and education initiatives for girls and women are two of the best investments we can make in ensuring the survival, health and well-being of women and children in Afghanistan."

In a separate initiative, Canada will contribute $11.5 million, over two years, to the Accelerated District Reconstruction Program. This will help to speed up the construction and rehabilitation of roads, aqueducts, sanitation infrastructure, as well as refurbishing schools and clinics throughout Kandahar Province.

Today's announcement is part of Canada's total contribution of nearly $1 billion over 10 years aimed at reconstruction, reducing poverty and strengthening Afghanistan's governance, all of which are key elements in stabilizing the country and the region. For more information on Canada's programming in Afghanistan, please refer to CIDA's website at


Canada's New Government announced funding for two UNICEF initiatives in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province which will help improve maternal health and literacy skills of women in that province. $1.75 million in funding will be allocated as follows:

Improved maternal health and education

- $350,000 to help UNICEF establish a 20-bed residential obstetric care facility next to Kandahar City's Mirwais Hospital where expectant mothers can await delivery and be transferred to the hospital if complications arise when giving birth. Trained midwives will provide pre-and post-natal care, including breast-feeding programs, vaccinations for mothers and infants, as well as health and hygiene education. It is estimated that over 1,000 mothers will benefit from the Canada-funded Kandahar facility annually.

- The project will also provide maternal and neonatal health care training at the Mirwais Hospital and deliver a comprehensive safe motherhood information campaign throughout Kandahar Province.

- This is part of a broader multi-donor initiative led by UNICEF and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to set up obstetric care facilities in five provinces to reduce maternal mortality by 20 percent by 2008.

According to studies conducted by UNICEF and the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health, the maternal mortality rate for Afghan women of reproductive age is approximately 2,000 deaths per 100,000 live births. Only 9.5 per cent of women deliver in the presence of a skilled birth attendant and complications from childbirth are responsible for over one-half of all deaths of women of childbearing age.

Literacy program expansion

- $1.4 million will enable UNICEF to expand its already successful literacy program in Kandahar Province which currently provides literacy training to 7,500 participants in 160 centres. With Canada's contribution, an additional 155 community teachers will be trained and 4,600 participants, 80 percent of them women, will attend a 10-month course combining reading and numeracy with basic life skills, health and nutrition education. The course targets Afghans between the ages of 15 and 45 years. At course completion, graduates will be helped to find work or to attend vocational training.

- As an incentive to attend and participate in the course, students and their teachers will be given food rations by the World Food Programme (WFP). Approximately 1,408 metric tonnes of food items such as wheat, pulses, vegetable oil and iodized salt will be distributed by the WFP over the duration of the course.

- This project is part of a broader initiative undertaken by UNICEF, the WFP and the Afghan Ministry of Education to implement a National Functional Literacy Program throughout Afghanistan, where adult illiteracy is among the world's highest (85 percent for women and 57 percent for men).

Increasing reconstruction efforts

Canada will contribute $11.5 million to the two-year Accelerated District Reconstruction Program which will help to speed up the construction and rehabilitation of roads, aqueducts, waste management and sanitation infrastructure, as well as refurbishing schools and clinics throughout Kandahar Province.

An executing agent (which is an organization capable of carrying out the project), to be selected by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through a competitive process, will oversee the timely and cost-effective completion of reconstruction projects, including the selection and contracting of qualified local Afghan subcontractors and project monitoring.

In keeping with Canada's approach to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, local district and village groups in all eligible districts in Kandahar Province will identify the priority needs in the areas of basic road infrastructure, irrigation, water supply, sanitation and social services.

CIDA will work closely with the Government of Afghanistan in seeing these many district projects through to completion.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister for International Cooperation
    Nicole Lascelle
    Director of communications
    Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
    Media Relations Office
    819-953-6534 (electronic version of document)
    UNICEF Canada
    Tilla Seh
    Media Relations Officer
    416-482-4444, ext. 814