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Building A Better Afghanistan

Meeting with President George W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said that despite many obstacles and dangers, his country is making progress:

“We have a long journey ahead of us. But what we have traveled so far has given us greater hope for a better future, for a better life. The Afghans are still suffering, but there are millions of Afghans who are enjoying a better and more secure life, who can send their children to school and who can work in their fields.”

Mr. Karzai said that improved health care has been made possible by the U.S. and its coalition partners, and this has saved the lives of thousands of Afghan children:

“Afghanistan today, with the help that you have provided and our other allies have provided, can save, is saving the lives of at least fifty-thousand [more] infants after they are born and the lives of eighty-five thousand children under five. . . .eighty-five thousand children living today had you not been there to help us with the rest of the world.”

Since the overthrow of the Taliban in December 2001, Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate has declined twenty-four percent. The number of Afghan mothers receiving trained help in childbirth has increased from fewer than fifty-thousand in 2002 to more than one-hundred-ninety thousand in 2006.

Training Afghan women as health workers has been a major priority for the U.S. Gary Cook is a senior health adviser with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He says that two-thousand-three-hundred Afghan women have graduated from a year-and-a-half mid-wife training program and “about seventy percent of health facilities have at least one woman health professional.” President Bush said the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s recovery has been substantial:

“We’ve committed more than twenty-three billion dollars since 2001 to help rebuild the country. . . .Seven thousand community health care workers have been trained that provide about three-hundred-forty thousand Afghan men, women, and children a month with good health care.”

President Bush contrasted the progress Afghanistan is making today with its experience under Taliban rule. “They’ve had the opportunity to show the world how they think and what they do.” The Taliban, he said, “have no regard for human life.”