Broadcast: August 23, 2004
This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.
Efforts are being made to educate people in Afghanistan about the political process before their first presidential election. The vote is set for October ninth. Parliamentary and local elections are planned for next April. Voters will have their finger marked with ink so they cannot vote more than once.
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs is a non-profit organization based in Washington. This group has opened six offices in Afghanistan to teach the public about political campaigns and fair elections. Another group, Internews, is working with local media and Internet providers to help guarantee freedom of expression.
The United Nations said last week that nearly ten million people have received voting papers. The number who signed up to vote, especially women, is higher than expected. More than forty percent are women. Females had few rights under the Taliban government.
Five years of Taliban rule ended in late two thousand one after American-led forces went to war in Afghanistan. The action against al-Qaida and its Taliban supporters followed the September eleventh terrorist attacks on the United States.
American officials say the Taliban and al-Qaida continue to operate along the Afghan borders. Fighting has increased recently. Election workers have been killed. The aid group Doctors Without Borders left the country.
But there are examples of other aid efforts in Afghanistan. The World Health Organization has launched an emergency campaign against leishmaniasis. This disease is spread by sand flies.
The World Bank has approved thirty-five million dollars for education. The U.N. refugee agency has launched a program to assist more than three million Afghans. And the Asia Development Bank has approved technical assistance to help rebuild roads.
But there is another problem. The U.N. says Afghanistan has again become the world's largest producer of heroin. Farming of opium poppy to make the illegal drug has increased since the fall of the Taliban. Europe gets most of its heroin from Afghanistan.
In Kabul earlier this month, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Afghans they are winning in their effort to rebuild their country. But he warned that the drug trade threatens the future of their democracy and way of life.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Gwen Outen.