Back to Common Ground Archive

Week of April 1, 2003

Program 0313


Jordanian War Reaction | Transcript | MP3

Dangerous Escapes | Transcript | MP3

Kien Khleang | Transcript | MP3

Iraq Humanitarian Response | Transcript | MP3

Afghanistan Recovery | Transcript | MP3

UN Afghanistan Recovery | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

GEORGE HAWATMEH: They don’t necessarily buy that argument that this is done for democracy. If it were, it would be done differently.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Persian Gulf reaction to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, dangerous escapes for children fleeing war.

IGBALE PAQARIZI: [via a translator] Then they said, “Take the children, start walking, don’t look back.” So we walked. I was expecting “Bam! Bam!” That they would kill the kids and me. But with God’s grace we were saved.

PORTER: And the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation provides hope in post-conflict Cambodia.

LARRIE WARREN: Boy, the old saying about a smile being worth a thousand pictures, we see it all the time. It’s incredible.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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Jordanian War Reaction

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. As the war continues in Iraq, the government in neighboring Jordan finds itself in a difficult spot as both a friend of the United States and a top trading partner with Iraq. Antiwar demonstrations in Amman are growing and the Jordanian Prime Minister says the country will not be able to sustain the enormous economic losses caused by the conflict. Our correspondent Simon Marks reports from Amman that many influential voices in the Jordanian capital are worried about the consequences of war.

[The sound of a large street protest.]

SIMON MARKS: In the hours after war began, it became a daily occurrence at Amman University—a standoff between protesting students accusing the United States of prosecuting a war of imperialist aggression…

[The sound of a large street protest, including the sounds of police firing tear gas.]

MARKS: …And Jordanian riot police using tear gas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators.

[The sound of a large street protest, including the sounds of police firing tear gas and Jordanian students yelling anti-war and anti-American slogans in English.]

MARKS: These protesters are putting real pressure now on the government of Jordan. It wants to protect its relationship with the United States, but worries that the longer the conflict continues, the more difficult that will become.

GEORGE HAWATMEH: We are baffled and amazed by what the Americans are doing.

MARKS: George Hawatmeh edits Al Rai, one of the country’s most influential newspapers. He says America’s promise that regime change in Iraq will help democratize the Middle East and export good governance and political reform is greeted with heavy skepticism here.

HAWATMEH: Our people don’t necessarily buy that, because the US has been friends with dictators all over the world. They believe that it’s more to do with oil and the oil supplies, more to do with imposing a settlement on the Palestinians, according to Israeli terms. They believe that they are waging war, the right wing of the Bush administration, as if they’re in conflict with Islam, with the Arab world. They don’t necessarily buy that argument that this is done for democracy. If it were it would be done differently.

MARKS: One way it should have been done differently, Jordanians say, is that Washington should have given more thought to the implications of war for their country’s economy.

[The sounds of gasoline tanker trucks.]

MARKS: The road from Amman to Baghdad is literally Jordan’s economic lifeline. Two weeks before war broke out, we saw oil tankers shuttling back and forth along the road, bringing Iraqi crude to the Jordanian market. Under a UN-approved bilateral deal, the Iraqis sold oil to Jordan at a highly competitive price—the equivalent of less than $10 a barrel. In exchange, Jordan sent much-needed commodities to Iraq including medicines and construction materials. Baghdad was Jordan’s number one trading partner until the outbreak of war.

MAZEN DARWAZEH: If this war goes on beyond a period of six weeks, I think the Jordanian economy will suffer a lot.

[Factory sounds]

MARKS: Mazen Darwazah has a big interest in getting the Jordanian economy moving. The chairman of Hikma Pharmaceuticals, he runs one of Jordan’s largest medicine producing facilities, right in the center of Amman. Busy production lines churn out antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics. Until the war, 15 per cent of the boxes stacking up in the company’s storeroom were destined for Iraq. The company’s trade with Baghdad has come to a total halt. And even when the war is over, and economic sanctions against Iraq are lifted, the company’s chairman has little confidence that Jordan will benefit.

DARWAZAH: It’s predetermined who is going to get the boom in Iraq. It’s not going to be the Jordanians; it’s not going to be the Europeans; I think its going to be the American companies. So if the US is really serious about developing Jordan and living up to its promises and trying to keep Jordan as a modern state in this part of the world, I think there should be more serious input in the Jordanian economy on behalf of the US administration.

MARKS: In the immediate aftermath of war’s outbreak, a number of Iraqi citizens living in Amman packed their belongings into vehicles and announced they were returning to their homeland. They insisted they intended to join a jihad, a holy war against American interests in Iraq. That kind of sentiment, expressed also by many Jordanians, is creating difficulties for a government that wants to preserve its positive relationship with the United States, but has its own domestic issues to worry about. George Hawatmeh, the editor of the Al Rai newspaper, says Jordan has many questions about where the war is heading.

HAWATMEH: Will there be reconstruction? According to what conditions? Will the Jordanians he part of it? The oil resources will be in the hands of the Americans or in the hands of the Iraqis? Who will rule Iraq? How will they treat Jordan? Will they be friendly with the Jordanian government for instance? These are questions that we are grappling with and I don’t think we have answers.

MARKS: The Jordanian government says virtually every sector of its economy is being affected by the war in Iraq—and the impact will continue long after the war ends. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Amman, Jordan.

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Dangerous Escapes

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MCHUGH: Jordan already hosts 400,000 Iraqi refugees from the first Gulf War and may face many more as the latest military conflict in Iraq plays out. In fact, displacement is a universal symptom of war anywhere in the world. Fighting in central Africa has forced more than four million people out of their homes. In southeastern Europe, more than one million people fled the 1999 war in Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians spent more than a decade in refugee camps along the Thai border and tens of thousands still remain. In almost every case, half of these refugees are children. Keith and I recently visited a refugee camp and found that for kids, fleeing war can be as dangerous as war itself.

[The sound of jet combat aircraft.]

IGBALE PAQARIZI: [via a translator] We were running toward the border. A Serbian policeman stopped us.

PORTER: In 1999, Igbale Paqarizi, an ethnic Albanian, grabbed her son and daughter and fled the war in Kosovo.

IGBALE PAQARIZI: [via a translator] First they burned my daughter’s face. She started crying, “Mother!” I just told her, “Keep silent! Keep silent!” Her face was covered with blood. They hit my son in the stomach and he fell to the ground. I was just saying, “Oh, my god! Then they said, “Take the children, start walking, don’t look back.” So we walked. I was expecting “Bam! Bam!,” that they would kill the kids and me. But with God’s grace we were saved.

PORTER: Many families like these flee the horrors of war only to end up in refugee camps. Even the best of these camps offer cold comfort to children in crisis situations.

PATRICK FRUCHET: A refugee camp can be a very dangerous place. You’re putting an enormous number of people in very close proximity and these are people who are tired, who have often become ill. You know, there are all sorts of health risks in a refugee camp situation.

PORTER: Patrick Fruchet has worked for UNICEF—the United Nations Children’s Fund—in a number of conflict zones, most recently Kosovo, where thousands of children displaced by the 1999 war still suffer in camps like this one, called “Plementina,” just outside of Pristina.

[The sound of children running and playing.]

PORTER: Many of these children, especially Serbs and Roma, also known as Gypsies—are afraid to leave because they fear ethnic attacks. Enver Krasniqi is the American Refugee Committee field agent in charge of this camp.

ENVER KRASNIQI: I will tell you when, for children it’s a difficult life here in the camp. Because only some people of the camp, they are free to move because some of them they are scared to go like outside to our village or Pristina or some. But for children it’s a very difficult life.

PORTER: [questioning a child in the camp] How old are you?

[The sound of the child responding.]

PORTER: Do you speak English?


PORTER: No English, no.

PORTER: [now narrating again, this time from the camp] As we walk through the camp the ground is wet and there’s some mud and lots of clothes being hung out to dry.

PORTER: [Now talking to another child.] What’s his name?


PORTER: Kenon. Kenon, how old are you?

KENON: [via a translator] Six.

PORTER: Six years old. How long have you lived here in Plementina

KENON: [via a translator] A full three years.

PORTER: For three years! How is your life here?

KENON: [via a translator] It’s very difficult.

PORTER: Very difficult. Do you want to go somewhere else?

KENON: [via a translator] Yes, I do.

PORTER: Where would you like to go?

KENON: [via a translator] In Austria.

PORTER: In Austria [laughing along with the interpreter]

PORTER: [now narrating again] Sandra, who helped translate, works for the United Nations at the Plementina camp.

PORTER: [Now interviewing Sandra] What’s life like for a child in Plementina camp?

SANDRA: It’s quite difficult. The fact that they live somewhere else instead of their home, it’s horrible enough. As much as we can we are trying to give them a decent way of life. But sometimes very difficult.

PORTER: She is concerned that the scars of war and the trauma of fleeing war will never heal for these children, causing long-term problems for them and the rest of the world.

SANDRA: You should see some pictures they are making. Even for the people who doesn’t have anything to do with the psycho-social program, they can realize that there are some scars.

PORTER: Beyond the psychological trauma, children on the run from war face threats to their personal security, suffer from a lack of regular education, and little or no healthcare. Again, Patrick Fruchet from UNICEF.

FRUCHET: A child is more likely to die from not being immunized as a result of armed conflict than to die as a result of the armed conflict. In other words, it’s the same thing. Because of the disruption of the conflict they don’t receive their immunization and therefore they’re vulnerable to a whole slew of child killers basically.

PORTER: What can be done to help these children. I asked Sandra if there are lessons here that can be applied in other conflicts.

SANDRA: Let’s try not to have a conflict first. Let’s be more focused on the kids. They are our future. And if they have scars from the conflict one day they will be a person with scars. And they can become violent. You can see many of the kids are violent without reason.

PORTER: You think it might be the seeds for another war?

SANDRA: Yes. Unfortunately, yes. They’ve suffered because of the war and those scars can make from them unfortunately another warriors. What we don’t want. Let’s have more doctors and more teachers.

PORTER: Sandra and others say listening to voices from the field is vital because it reminds aid providers that each conflict situation is different and humanitarian responses must be tailored to fit local needs.

SANDRA: It has to be much more let’s say, targeted. It would be better if the donors comes down to the field. Please do not stay at the headquarters. I know that you like your offices with air conditioners and those things. If you want to have like, improved humanitarian assistance situation in Kosovo, please come down to the field.

PORTER: A 1951 United Nations convention guarantees refugees the right to return to their homes but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Particularly in Kosovo where the ethnic Albanian government has not welcomed the return of minority Serbs and Roma. Patrick Fruchet says UNICEF is working in one particular Kosovo community to help families return, but the results are frustrating.

FRUCHET: There were basically a number of men whose wives and children were not there. And we spoke to them about, “Will your family come? You’re rebuilding your home. Will your family come?” And the answer was, “Well, not unless there’s healthcare and education.” And so for UNICEF, the right to return, it’s not just to return to a house, it’s to return to a community with services.

SIMON HASELOCK: It is very unlikely or unreasonable to expect that three years after the, what happened here that, you know, all of a sudden these people are going to be welcomed back with open arms by the majority community.

PORTER: Simon Haselock is chief spokesperson for the United Nations mission which runs Kosovo. He says the UN plans for returning refugees and displaced people to their homes are based on creating both safe conditions and local services. And he knows that for children and adults this is an urgent task.

HASELOCK: The next two or three years are the critical years for returns. If it lasts any longer than that, of course, you then become into the problem where these people become too embedded where they are and it’s less likely that they will return at all.

PORTER: That’s a sobering thought and a vivid reminder that child refugees can be just as much victims as those injured in war. And it’s up to their parents to resolve the underlying problems that led to war in the first place.

MCHUGH: Keith’s story appeared in the radio documentary, Children of War—Fighting, Dying, Surviving, airing on Public Radio nationwide.

MCHUGH: Hope for healing in Cambodia, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Kien Khleang

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PORTER: Even when the war ends, civilians are still in danger. Perhaps the greatest danger is the prospect for another conflict. Without education, healthcare, and a strong economy, the seeds for a future conflict can easily take root. This requires aid agencies to find creative solutions for the unique needs of children and adults in post-war situations. Kristin and I recently visited Southeast Asia and discovered one American-funded program that is helping to heal the mind, body, and sprit of thousands of disabled Cambodians.

[The sound of ethnic Cambodian music played by a band of musicians with disabilities, at Ta Phrom.]

MCHUGH: A band of disabled men, all dressed in crisp blue oxfords, captivates a steady stream of visitors at the Ta Prohm ruins near Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple.

[The sound of ethnic Cambodian music played by a band of musicians with disabilities, at Ta Phrom.]

MCHUGH: It’s a familiar site here. In 1999 the World Bank estimated nearly 10 percent of Cambodia’s population was disabled, although experts say poor infrastructure makes the actual number of disabled citizens difficult to track.

[The sound of ethnic Cambodian music played by a band of musicians with disabilities, at Ta Phrom.]

MCHUGH: A countless number of the disabled—including these band members—end up begging for food and money at locations popular with foreigners. But less than one mile across Phnom Penh’s Japanese Friendship Bridge, an American-funded medical clinic is helping thousands of Cambodians get back on their feet.

HING CHANNARITH: My name is Hing Channarith. And I’m the site manager of the Kien Khleang Physical Rehabilitation Center of Veterans International Cambodia, and a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.

[The sound of Hing Channarith beginning his tour of the Kien Khleang Physical Rehabilitation Center.]

MCHUGH: Hing Channarith manages the Kien Khleang Physical Rehabilitation Center. Founded in 1991, Kien Khleang has grown into a multi-service facility for amputees, landmine victims, and persons with a host of other physical disabilities including polio, scoliosis, and congenital deformities. More than 10,000 legs have been fitted in the past decade. All are made to specifications on-site. And each month more than 250 patients pass through Kien Khleang. Roughly half are children. Every patient’s individual course of treatment begins with an initial screening.

[The sound of Hing Channarith continuing his tour of the Kien Khleang Physical Rehabilitation Center.]

CHANNARITH: All patients physically disabled persons. They have to register and they meet with a screener. And the screener will refer to the prosthetic/orthotic section.

MCHUGH: A gentle breeze moves through the sunlit waiting area today as new patient Soung Chak Chen quietly answers questions about his health.

SOUNG CHAK CHEN: [via a translator] I came to check on my leg.

MCHUGH: Polio has crippled one of the 14-year-old’s legs. Looking terrified, he now sits alone with a physical therapist in Kien Khleang’s large, open air physical therapy room. A semi-circular maze of silver bars fills nearly a third of the therapy room. At the moment, a young boy is carefully navigating the maze. Larrie Warren, the Country Director for Veterans International’s Cambodia Rehabilitation Program, explains.

LARRIE WARREN: This is just what we call gate training. When you put, whether it’s a prosthesis or an orthosis, when you put it on the people have to learn all over again how to walk. We always refer to prosthetics as AK and BK. An AK means an above knee amputation; BK, below knee. If somebody comes in here that’s a below knee amputation, we can do wonders for ’em and have them out in a few days. And an AK is a much harder, you know, a whole different project because nobody’s figured out how to manufacture a knee joint that’s all that great. And they really have to learn how to walk all over again.

[The sound of a patient riding a stationary bicycle.]

MCHUGH: Not far from the gait training area, a young girl with a bright smile swiftly rides a stationary bike. When she arrived five months ago, the 13-year-old, Deu Sreipheak, could barely move.

CHANNARITH: Because of the treatment that our physical therapy and in cooperation with the family, today she can ride bicycle, she can walk, and she can speak. It’s very much improvement that we provide for her.

DEU SREIPHEAK’S GRANDMOTHER: [via a translator] If she couldn’t come here her life would be very different. She wouldn’t be able to move.

MCHUGH: Deu Sreipheak’s grandmother can’t contain her smile as she praises the clinic.

DEU SREIPHEAK’S GRANDMOTHER: [via a translator] They are really concerned about people with this disability. I’m very happy that I brought my grandchild here and that she can walk. I am very happy with the treatment.

MCHUGH: And what part of treatment does Deu Sreipheak enjoy the most?

DEU SREIPHEAK: [summarized by a translator] She likes every part of this section.

MCHUGH: Poverty and malnutrition remain major problems for Cambodia as it slowly rebuilds after nearly three decades of civil war. So every morning, Deu Sreipheak and all other child patients make their way down a short crushed-rock sidewalk lined with bushes to Kien Khleang’s outdoor eating area.

CHANNARITH: At 9:30 am every day we provide a noodle soup for physical disabled children. We want to increase their energy.

MCHUGH: [reporting from the rehabilitation center.] The children are sitting under an open grass roof hut. They’re sitting, if they can sit on the ground, they’re sitting on carpets, and they’re enjoying what appears to be a beef noodle soup. And the children who aren’t able to sit on the mats are sitting in their wheelchairs.

MCHUGH: [again narrating] Although the supplemental meal is only provided for the children, a number of family members are also gathered in the outdoor eating area. On this day, a total of 55 people are staying in Kien Khleang’s on-site dormitory—41 are patients.

[The sound of banging and clanging at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: In addition to medical treatment, Kien Khleang builds wheelchairs, crafts custom prosthetic devices and braces, and produces a range of artificial feet. Here in the wheelchair assembly area, chairs of all sizes with deep royal blue seats and shiny new wheels line the entrance.

[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

CHANNARITH: We make child and adult wheelchair. We produce tricycle wheelchair for child and adult. We produce walking frame, child and adult also.

MCHUGH: Kien Khleang produces an average of 35 wheelchairs per month. Today, half-a-dozen employees are carefully building individual wheelchair parts, including this man who skillfully places bearings inside the tire spokes.

CHANNARITH: He’s completely blind due to landmines. And he’s a wheelchair finisher. His main job is to assemble the wheel. And we have 13 workers, some of them are landmine victims. We have two double amputee and two blind.

[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: In fact, nearly one-third of Kien Khleang’s production employees are themselves disabled.

WARREN: Our prosthetics is—thank god—our prosthetic work has slowly started to decline which, has you know, certainly something to do with the post-conflict, the peace that has finally come to this country.

MCHUGH: Again, Larrie Warren

WARREN: So each month we’re putting legs on 70 people. Most of those are refittings. An amputee needs a new leg somewhere between every one and two years. So people are constantly coming back to us. It is estimated that there’s probably somewhere between 60-70,000 amputees in Cambodia, which is one of the highest per capita rates in the world. And our orthotics, we’re doing just about double the number. So we’re doing somewhere between 150-160 orthotic braces each month.

[The sounds of the clinic.]

CHANNARITH: Now, our physical therapist and prosthetic/orthotic technologist is fitting the brace for a scoliosis girl. This is the first time she has received a brace from us.

MCHUGH: Today in the fitting area, a young scoliosis patient with large brown, but fearful eyes firmly clutches a stuffed toy as she is fitted with a brace that covers nearly all of her tiny chest and back. Nearby, an amputee is measured for a new artificial leg. Non Van Turn stepped on a landmine 20 years ago.

NON VAN TURN: [via a translator] I came here because the prosthetic was getting loose. I came here for a tighter one. If I didn’t have this stuff, I wouldn’t be able to do anything at home.

[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: It will take multiple steps to produce Non Van Turn’s new artificial leg.

MCHUGH: [reporting directly from the factory] Right now, they are wrapping the plastic around the amputee mold that they’ve created so that they can finish off the leg. The plastic has been in the oven for an hour. And it’s a process that has to happen pretty quickly, ’cause it cools very, very fast. It’s a very thick piece of brown plastic that’s been in the oven for about an hour. It’s to resemble the flesh of a leg.

MCHUGH: [Again narrating] A few yards past the oven, a dozen or so rubber feet rest on a worn, red table. They are among the thousands Kien Khleang manufactures each year.

CHANNARITH: And our feet last for one year maximum. One of the example for this feet, it’s old, but you look black, black color, and it’s broken.

MCHUGH: [interviewing Channarith with factory sounds in the background] Starting to pull away?


MCHUGH: So the average life span for one of these is a year?


MCHUGH: And that’s why patients come back every year?


[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: Kien Khleang technicians routinely test newly manufactured feet by machine. They also visit patients at home every month to see how the feet are being used in everyday tasks. It’s all in an effort to improve the product.

CHANNARITH: We are in the prosthetic/orthotic workshop. We have 24 prosthetic/orthotic technicians working here. And some are landmine victims.

[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: The prosthetic workshop, which is adjacent to the casting area, is bustling with activity today. Work stations fitted with a variety of tools fill much of the floor space. Here technicians craft devices designed to help those with a host of physical disabilities.

CHANNARITH: Now Okaw is making the brace for a polio boy. And he just put a sidebar on the polypropylene brace.

[The sound of electric tools at a wheelchair factory.]

MCHUGH: Kien Khleang is the largest of the four rehabilitation centers Veterans’ International operates in Cambodia. It is also the largest center the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, or VVAF, runs anywhere in the world. Again, Larrie Warren.

WARREN: There’s a couple of other centers that are around the same size as Kien Khleang but it’s the most comprehensive. No other center in the country does prosthetic work, orthotic work, full physical physiotherapy, and produces and distributes wheelchairs.

MCHUGH: Since the early 1990’s, Kien Khleang and VVAF’s other Cambodia programming have received nearly all of their financing from the Patrick J. Leahy War Victims Fund. But the War Victims Fund grant—roughly $1 million dollars a year—is being phased out. Larrie Warren says the VVAF is now in the process of setting up a private endowment to keep Kien Khleang and its other Cambodia programs up and running.

WARREN: Our goal is to enhance the quality of life of any patient, any person that comes to us. There are various ways to do that and the key to it all is mobility. Many of the children come to us, just completely lack mobility. In the worst cases they at least need a wheelchair to try to get around. Hopefully we can do better than that and actually put a child who has never walked or who hasn’t walked for quite some time to get them walking again.

[The sound of a wheelchair basketball game.]

MCHUGH: Kien Khleang’s quality of life goal may not be obvious to these young patients as they play an enthusiastic game of wheelchair basketball. But it is obvious that the care these children receive here allows them to experience the joys of youth instead of watching from the sidelines.

WARREN: Time after time I’ve seen young kids—I’ve seen it with adults as well, but when we see these young kids come us in just a very, very pathetic and sad mobile situation and then boy, the old saying about a smile being worth a thousand pictures, we see it all the time. It’s incredible.

[The sound of a wheelchair basketball game.]

MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh near Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

[The sound of a wheelchair basketball game.]

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, international aid agencies prepare for Iraq’s looming humanitarian crisis.

NICOLE WIDDERSHEIM: Resources haven’t been committed yet to allow for the humanitarian community and the UN to prepare for any humanitarian fallout. So we’re very concerned.

MCHUGH: Plus, a progress report on Afghanistan’s post-war recovery.

DAVID LOCKWOOD: It’s a long and uphill battle, but I’m sure we’ll continue to provide help which will lead the Afghans to that success of being economically independent as well as politically.

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Iraq Humanitarian Response

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PORTER: Under the oil-for-food program administered by the United Nations, one out of every three Iraqis received their food from the UN. The fact the regime of Saddam Hussein needed help feeding 16 million of its 24 million citizens indicates what a huge humanitarian relief program will be needed for Iraq. And, as Priscilla Huff reports, planning started long before the bombs began to drop.

[The sound of heavy bombing.]

HUFF: Aid workers loaded trucks with sacks of grain, as the US military deployed its troops across the Persian Gulf region. James Morris is the Executive Director of the UN World Food Program. Weeks before the war, he knew his organization should expect to feed as many as a million refugees

UN WORLD FOOD PROGRAM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JAMES MORRIS: Anytime there is a likely problem on the horizon we do contingency planning to get prepared for what emergency might come about.

HUFF: But planning for humanitarian relief is more than making sure there’s enough food. For the US military, the question was, how to not create a disaster. The Pentagon knew from the beginning of target planning, it had a very basic problem. The main target, Baghdad, is a densely populated city of about five million. US General Tommy Franks leads the military operations through the US Central Command.

GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS: You’ll begin to look at all of the places where we know we do not want to strike because we’re Americans, because we’re part of a coalition that treats citizenry like that in Iraq as victims, not as enemies, as the President has said. And so, of course, we are studying the intelligence, we are working what you described as the targeting process, to think our way through all of the possibilities, as well as to determine what the restricted lists might be associated to this so that we stay within the guidelines that our country operates within.

HUFF: President George Bush promised the Iraqi people, the fight was not with the average citizen.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need.

HUFF: That costs money, and for the UN World Program, initial planning totaled millions. James Morris.

MORRIS: The initial expense of our planning activity and the initial expense of some modest pre-positioning of food is $23.3 million.

HUFF: One estimate from Refugees International projected it will cost $200 million per month to feed Iraq’s population. Nicole Widdersheim, with the International Rescue Committee, says, her group and others are worried.

NICOLE WIDDERSHEIM: Resources haven’t been committed for the humanitarian community and the UN to prepare for any humanitarian fallout within Iraq and outside, around Iraq. So we’re very concerned.

HUFF: Refugee aid groups insist the US must comply with the Geneva conventions and other international agreements, ensuring the basics of food, shelter, and medical care. The White House says it will follow through on its promises, starting with a stockpile of 3 million emergency food packets, similar to those that were air dropped over Afghanistan, as well as blankets and supplies for clean water. But, with 24 million needing the requirements of life in a war-ravaged nation, that won’t be enough. That may be why the Bush administration has already solicited bids for $900 million in contracts to rebuild Iraq. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

[Musical interlude]

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Afghanistan Recovery

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PORTER: The world’s attention is focused on Iraq—the war, the post-war government, and the country’s reconstruction. But not even two years ago, those same issues were being fervently discussed with respect to a different country—Afghanistan. In the wake of the US bombing campaign there, billions of dollars of international aid were promised for the country’s rebuilding and, indeed, much has been done.

MCHUGH: Recently, the international community held a second donor conference for Afghanistan, pledging continued financial assistance for reconstruction. But as Iraq and other issues have come to the forefront, Afghanistan has largely disappeared from the headlines. Judith Smelser has this look at whether the first front in the war on terror is in danger of being forgotten.

SMELSER: Just last spring, President Bush was shining a spotlight on Afghanistan. He even compared the international community’s effort to rebuild the war-torn country to the famous US-funded Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings. After 1945, the United States of America was the only nation in the world strong enough to help rebuild a Europe and a Japan that had been decimated by World War II. Today, our former enemies are our friends. And Europe and Japan are strong partners in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

SMELSER: But not even a year later, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai came to Washington asking that his country not be cast aside, as other international crises demanded America’s attention. Karzai warned US lawmakers against repeating the mistake America made after it helped eject Soviet troops from Afghanistan during the Cold War.

AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: Once the Soviets left, the Americans left. And the consequence of that was what you saw in Afghanistan and in the United States and in the rest of the world. The fight against terrorism is over, but the fight against terrorism is not completed.

[The sound of children chanting their school lessons.]

SMELSER: Afghan children recite their lessons in a sparse classroom. They may not be on the front lines of the war against terrorism, but some argue that their education may have a major impact on the country’s future stability. Basir Ghani is an Afghan schoolteacher.

BASIR GHANI: Destruction of Afghanistan has, I think, happened because of the lack of education in Afghanistan. This is the main reason. The people who fought against each other, the people who killed each other, they didn’t have enough knowledge. If they still remain uneducated, I’m sure they fight again with each other and they destroy the country again.

SMELSER: The international community has helped to revive Afghanistan’s schools and to bring girls back into the education system. The US government is proud of its own involvement in the effort. Andrew Natsios is the head of the US Agency for International Development.

ANDREW NATSIOS: We’ve put a heavy amount of resources in that. We’ve rebuilt 142 schools and a couple of colleges. We’ve printed 15 million textbooks, and we made a commitment today to rebuild a thousand schools over the next three years across Afghanistan.

SMELSER: Another major focus of reconstruction has been Afghanistan’s crumbling roadways.

[The sound of a road construction crew.]

SMELSER: On one road, Afghan women sweep grit and tar into potholes. A steamroller, donated by Japan, will later smooth out the new asphalt. But schoolteacher Basir Ghani says there’s still much more to be done—especially when it comes to roads outside the Afghan capital Kabul.

GHANI: The Japanese are working, and they have constructed many roads in Kabul City. But for long roads, or for highways, we can say—for those roads we need a lot of money. We need a huge amount of funds.

SMELSER: The concern about areas outside Kabul—the villages and rural areas where most of the Afghan people live—extends to all aspects of reconstruction. President Karzai highlighted this problem during his Washington visit.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: We are not happy with the performance of the reconstruction activity as far as the extension of that activity is concerned to the provinces and to the villages of Afghanistan. There’s a lot of concentration of NGOs, UN, governmental agencies in the capitol of the country and in the provincial capitols. I would like to see more of that go to the inner parts of the country—to the countryside.

SMELSER: But international aid groups say this is a major challenge because of the security situation outside Kabul. The Karzai government has not consolidated its power in most of the country, and local warlords still control many areas. Nicole Widdersheim with the International Rescue Committee says United Nations operations are constantly being disrupted.

NICOLE WIDDERSHEIM: It’s a merry-go-round of violence that shuts down operations for one week, two weeks, here and when the UN shuts down, so too do the international humanitarian agencies. Our field staff say that the security situation is the worst that it has been in five years.

SMELSER: That means it’s difficult, and sometimes impossible, to transport humanitarian aid outside Kabul. There have been numerous calls from Afghanistan’s government and from aid agencies to expand the international peacekeeping force outside the country’s capitol. President Karzai is also pushing for more international help to train Afghanistan’s national army. But that and other assistance is dependent on continued international and US commitment to the country. Nicole Widdersheim with the International Rescue Committee says there’s a real concern that government resources may start to dwindle.

WIDDERSHEIM: There are limited resources. I’ve said that the needs are so immense in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not the only country. There’s a huge food crisis right now in Africa. So, when the spotlight and the news cameras change, or shift away, I think there’s always that fear that resources follow.

SMELSER: The spotlight has shifted away from Afghanistan. And while President Bush has given assurances that America’s commitment to that country will not falter, there is still a concern in Afghanistan’s government and in the NGO community, that as other global hot spots rise on America’s radar screen, Afghanistan will fall.

[The sound of children chanting their school lessons.]

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser.

[The sound of children chanting their school lessons.]

PORTER: Coming up, the UN’s progress report on Afghan development. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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UN Afghanistan Recovery

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PORTER: Two and a half million refugees and internally displaced persons have returned to their homes in Afghanistan. That’s more than three times as many people as the United Nations expected during the first year after the war.

MCHUGH: The head of the United Nations Development Program’s task force on Afghanistan says donations to rebuild the country have come in above expectations. But, David Lockwood told Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman, after 20 plus years of war and occupation, Afghanistan still has a long road to recovery.

DAVID LOCKWOOD: We’re about, what one year and a little bit into what you might call the recovery process. And obviously there are many accomplishments during the last year. Whether these have met either the expectations of the Afghan people themselves or the government of Afghanistan or indeed the donor community is the big question. I think it’s true to say that the Afghan people themselves are still frustrated that not enough help has arrived. And it’s a nation of over 20 million people. And it’s clear that while some assistance has received some attention in some quarters and has reached some people, there are large areas of the country who haven’t yet seen the benefits accruing from that. The government itself, I think, also feels some frustration that the amount of assistance that’s committed by the donor community only begins to address the massive damage that was done over 20 years.

But, the pledges for the first year, interestingly, were $1.7 billion and our estimate of disbursement is about $2 billion in that first year. So the donors have more than come through with their commitment for Afghanistan. And current indications for 2003, calendar 2003, are that they’re probably about the same level as 2002. So that’s a very, very good response from the donor community. They have indeed met the commitments they’ve made. That doesn’t mean that it’s enough. And it certainly doesn’t rebuild a country which over 20 years had faced total devastation.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: There have been some reports in the media about some increasing attacks on humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan. What’s behind that?

LOCKWOOD: There are still, of course, many problems in Afghanistan. And many of them are not new. I think it’s true to say that working in rural Afghanistan, looking back even over 50-year history or so of development assistance, there have been many problems of security where there was a sort of a less than law-abiding population. Sometimes disgruntled, always ready to take advantage of being distant from the capitol. It’s, I think, probably also a product of the fact that you don’t yet have a functioning nationwide police force. You don’t have national army quite in place, although President Karzai has announced the formation of an army. So there are many areas in the country where the rule of law simply doesn’t apply. And there are plenty of people ready to take advantage of that.

BROCKMAN: Is there anything more that can be done to protect the workers that are there?

LOCKWOOD: I think the UN’s abiding principle has always been that we should not travel in armed convoys. By not being armed we certainly can probably better protect ourselves from the accusation that we have either a particular side that we support or whatever.

BROCKMAN: As you mentioned, it’s been over 20 years that there’s been a war going on in one form or another in Afghanistan. What kind of effect has that had on the environment there?

LOCKWOOD: The biggest effect has been illegal felling of trees. Afghanistan until the late ’70s had substantial forests, particularly on its eastern borders, and those provinces bordering Pakistan. Largely due to the absence of controls of any kind there’s been a free for all, mostly into the market in Pakistan. Illegal logging basically. It’s very lucrative. The trees were valuable. And for communities who had little alternative income, again it was a great temptation to find a way to survive. Another part of the problem has been fuel. It is a cold climate in the winter time. People depend on fuel wood and that has resulted over the past 20 years in massive destruction of areas that perhaps otherwise would not have been felled if either kerosene or other fuel sources had been available.

BROCKMAN: The Taliban eliminated poppy growing. What’s happened with that since the Taliban was eliminated?

LOCKWOOD: To prevent poppy being cultivated you have to have two things in place at the same time. One is the alternative wherewithal for those who are presently deriving income from poppy, and that means livelihoods or alternative crops. And the other is a security environment to enforce it. And you need both in place at once. Some of the areas that produced poppy are difficult to access for security reasons. And until the national army is fully established and able to move freely about the country I think it’s going to be difficult for anybody to enforce the rules of not growing poppy. The government has made it very clear that the policy is to prevent the production of opium poppy. But it’s not yet in a position to enforce that.

For all the complicated reasons of the insecurity of rural areas on Afghanistan. The income from poppy is very high and the crops which currently can work well for farmers in Afghanistan are not very lucrative. And you cannot begin to simply substitute poppy with wheat or the more common agricultural crops because the income levels simply don’t compensate. Therefore you have to provide other kinds of employment opportunities. And that means investment by the private sector in various kinds of secondary agricultural production, for example. And we’re not quite there yet. So all these things have to go hand in hand. I think the, the private sector investment will certainly increase as the Afghan national army is able to make itself felt so that rule of law does reach all corners of the country, making it viable for foreigners who want to invest in Afghanistan to see a safe return of their investment.

BROCKMAN: Are there any lessons that have been learned so far? You mentioned we’re just a little over a year into the recovery. But any lessons that might be applied to other post-conflict recoveries?

LOCKWOOD: One of those, I think, is that as you emerge in the immediate period after conflict there is a transitionary period of maybe up to a year where normal government, normal development business does not take place. All of the preparations for that are in place. And you have to immediately provide assistance to build a stable peaceful environment so that people can begin to see the bonus of peace. That includes things like the salaries for civil servants. I think the fact that salaries were paid very quickly to all civil servants throughout the country was a great signal that the international community was supporting Afghanistan. I think there isn’t a civil servant in the country who doesn’t accept that as having been a basic starting point. Even though the salaries are very small, the fact is that at least the salaries are being paid. And you go on then to programs like cash for work, helping either clear rubble or rebuild buildings that were destroyed and so forth, as a means of putting quick cash into the local economy. These are not livelihoods. These are temporary employment opportunities. But at least it’s the beginning of cash moving into the local economy.

BROCKMAN: Are you optimistic about Afghanistan’s recovery?

LOCKWOOD: If you ask anybody in the development business a question like that we’re all optimists. [laughs]. And I think you have to be. The Afghans have a tremendous inner strength. They have a pride and dignity unlike many people. I can’t think of any nation which has the strength, the inner strength that they have. The international community in a sense had gotten them into the problems that they’re in because they’re at the front line of the Cold War. The Afghans, of course, hoping and I think praying that the international community will continue to support them until they’ve solved some of the problems that were caused by the war.

BROCKMAN: David Lockwood is a Deputy Director for the United Nations Development Program. He is also head of the United Nations Development Program Task Force on Afghanistan. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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