UK donates US $71 million to southern province

KABUL (IRIN) - The British government is donating US $71 million to boost security and economic development in the southern Afghan province of Helmand province, UK officials in Kabul confirmed on Tuesday.
“The UK is in total donating 38 million pounds [$71 million] to Helmand province over the forthcoming financial year [April 06 to April 07],” Colin Ball, British Embassy spokesman in Kabul, told IRIN.

Almost half of the money will come from the UK Department for International Development (DfID), which will be spent on development work, such as the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), which involves local leaders making decisions on how aid money should be spent, Ball explained.

The British government, a key member of the 10,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and a major Afghan donor, is deploying 3,300 troops to volatile Helmand province, the focus of efforts by a resurgent Taliban movement to destabilise the country.

The province is also a major supplier of opium in Afghanistan, which remains the world’s largest producer of the drug that produces heroin.

In order to make an immediate impression in Helmand the UK is carrying out a number of "quick impact projects" which are designed to deliver rapid and visible results, as well as build confidence in the Afghan government's reform programme. Many of these will be implemented by NGOs, Ball said.

The UK pledged $900m to assist war-ravaged Afghanistan at an international donors’ conference in London in February 2006.

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