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Sec. Of State Clinton Announces $500M Health, Development Projects For Pakistan

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday announced several new development- and health-related aid projects for Pakistan worth more than $500 million, Reuters reports (Quinn, 7/19).

“Clinton made the announcement at the beginning of a day-long ‘strategic dialogue’ in Islamabad on the second day of her visit to the South Asian country,” CNN reports. “The projects, which Clinton called ‘long-term investment in Pakistan’s future,’ include the construction of several dams, improvements to hydroelectric power plants and the country’s power grid, and the construction or renovation of three medical facilities” (7/19). 

At a “gathering of U.S. and Pakistani officials at Islamabad’s Foreign Ministry,” Clinton “singled out mounting U.S. efforts to address Pakistan’s chronic water and electricity shortages, including new dam projects and programs to refurbish electrical grids,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “We share with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives,” she said. “These are the building blocks of strong, durable, and thriving societies” (Solomon, 7/19).

A lot of Pakistanis think U.S. involvement in the country narrowly focuses on security, Clinton said, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “That this misperception has persisted for so long tells us that we have not done a good enough job of connecting our partnership with concrete improvements in the lives of Pakistanis,” she said. “We are working to change that” (7/19). According to CNN, the “projects will be funded by the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act that authorizes $7.5 billion in development aid to Pakistan over the next five years” (7/19).

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the new projects reflect Pakistani priorities and demonstrates that the U.S. “commitment is broad and deep,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Pakistan, noted that the focus on water is the result of a specific request from Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “The first phase of the multi-year water program will encompass seven initiatives at a cost of $270 million and include dam irrigation projects in rural areas to control flooding, and improve water supply and quality,” the news service writes.

Another three-year $28 million health project plans to “build an obstetrics and gynecology hospital ward and training center at a hospital that handles 17,000 births a year. The health funds would also increase bed capacity at Pakistan’s largest maternity hospital, Lahore’s Lady Willingdon,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In addition, “USAID will oversee $21 million in agricultural projects designed to promote Pakistani exports and improve the ability of women to manage dairy-related businesses. Based in Punjab, the program is expected to reach 16,000 women” (7/19). 

Delegation Discusses Women’s Health

On Sunday, during a meeting organized by Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, local officials and experts discussed women’s health and related issues with a U.S. delgation, including Clinton, Shah and other officials, the International News reports.

Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, special assistant to the prime minister on the social sector, discussed the health merits of birth spacing and noted the growing opportunity for the private sector to have an expanded role in promoting the health of women and children. “There is a paradigm shift in provision of healthcare delivery to the people as far as the present government is concerned. We are looking at efficient delivery of primary healthcare services with integration of health and population at the service delivery level,” Shahnaz said.

“We see birth spacing as not just an integral part of maternal and newborn care but also as a right of women who want to postpone their next child but are unable to find the means to do so,” said Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin. Pakistani officials said a comprehensive birth spacing strategy would cost $78 million (Maqbool, 7/19).

Projects In Afghanistan

In related news, the Associated Press examines U.S. development projects in neighboring Afghanistan – the first part in an occassional series. “The goal is to transform Afghanistan into a modern nation, fueled by a U.S.-led effort pouring $60 billion into bringing electricity, clean water, jobs, roads and education to this crippled country. But the results so far – or lack of them – threaten to do more harm than good,” the AP writes.

“There have been reconstruction successes, such as rebuilding a national highway loop left crumbling after decades of war, constructing or improving thousands of schools, and creating a network of health clinics. But the number of Afghans with access to electricity has only inched up from 6 percent in 2001 to an estimated 10 percent now, well short of the development goal to provide power to 65 percent of urban and 25 percent of rural households by the end of this year,” the news service writes.

The article explores why some projects have not succeeded and the implications of failed or stalled projects (Blackledge et al., 7/18).