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Improving lives in one of the harshest environments in the world

Posted on 24 January 2017

The quality of life for people living in one of the harshest regions in Afghanistan has significantly improved following the implementation of a community-led programme, an evaluative study by the University of York has revealed.

Women in Badakhshan, Afghanistan

Over a 10-year period, communities in Badakhshan consistently reported that their quality of life has improved, with women in particular benefitting from improved access to education and health.

In early 2000 girls were largely unable to access education in the province, since then attendance by girls has increased by 94 per cent.

More than a decade ago the number of midwives in the region was less than six, today the province has 164 midwives, 105 nurses and 80 community nurses.

Real impact

Researchers said the Aga Khan Development Network’s Multi-Input Area Development (MIAD) programme had delivered real impact and could be used as a blueprint for other countries affected by natural disasters and civil unrest.

Badakhshan is one of the poorest provinces in one of the poorest countries in the world – prone to natural disasters, civil instability and violence.

The majority of the 1.1 million population live in rural areas and engage in small-scale agriculture, raise livestock and carry out some non-farming activities.


The MIAD programme adopted a “holistic” approach with community leaders empowered to make decisions based on what was best for the whole community.

Resources and effort was concentrated in a defined geographical area which ultimately led to community driven development.

Between 2004-2014 there has been almost US$140m invested into MIAD in Badakhshan concentrating on areas such as education, health, rural infrastructure, natural resource management and private sector investment.

Dr Jo Rose, Associate Lecturer in Humanitarian Response at the University’s Department of Health Sciences, led the evaluative study.


She said: “Despite an increase in insecurity and violence in the area in the past 10 years people still perceive their lives as being better than before.

“This programme was about empowering communities and helping them to become resilient. The starting point has always been ‘what is your quality of life like today? And what do we need to do to improve your quality of life as a community.’ 

"The programmes weren’t delivered in isolation; it has all been driven from the ideas and decision making of the communities themselves.

“They make the decisions in collaboration with the Aga Khan Development Network and they deliver them jointly. But it is very much owned by the local community.”

Dr Rose added: “This framework could work in other areas, particularly where you have chronic complex emergencies where traditional humanitarian frameworks have not effectively delivered resilient communities.” 

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