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IN THE NEWS - Aid for Afghanistan

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This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

The United States and twenty-one other countries have agreed to spend thousands of millions of dollars to help rebuild Afghanistan.

The announcement was made after a special meeting at the State Department in Washington. The talks included officials from the United States, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and other wealthy counties expected to give money. Representatives of the United Nations and World Bank also attended the meetings last week. The two organizations are expected to supervise most of the aid projects.

The World Bank estimates as much as twenty-five-thousand-million dollars will be needed to rebuild the Afghan economy and provide needed services. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in Nineteen-Seventy-Eight. Civil war and armed conflicts are common in the country's history.

The United States has given the most humanitarian aid of any country for the past several years. Last year, America gave a total of one-hundred-thirteen-million dollars to Afghans inside the country and in refugee camps in nearby countries. So far this year, the United States has given nearly two-hundred-million dollars in aid to Afghanistan. And, last month President Bush announced that three-hundred-twenty-million dollars more aid would be given. The aid includes food, medicine, blankets and shelter.

Officials say the international community now is prepared to pay for major farm, road and school-building projects. The goal, they say, is to try to win the friendship of Afghan civilians as soon as the war is over.

Al Larson is an American State Department official. He says important projects need to be completed quickly to help build hope among Afghan people. For example, water projects need to be built to improve health and agricultural production. New schools need to be opened for girls and women who are both students and teachers.

Officials say a plan to rebuild Afghanistan is needed immediately, although the campaign against the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda terrorist group is not over. Countries are more likely to agree to give large amounts of money now when the terrible situation of the Afghan people is continually in the news.

Mark Malloch Brown heads the United Nations Development Project. He says rebuilding programs for Afghanistan will become more complex and costly in three to five years. He says that the financing will come from many countries. But, he says the planning and work of rebuilding the country will be done by Afghans themselves.

Officials say a final plan of assistance for Afghanistan is not expected until January. At that time, another meeting of countries prepared to give money is set to take place in Japan.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Jill Moss. This is Steve Ember.

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