International Assistance Mission

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The International Assistance Mission (IAM) is a non-profit Christian development non-governmental organization (NGO) working in Afghanistan since 1966. IAM runs projects in medicine, engineering, languages, small business and community development. In 2010, IAM's ten projects in seven provinces helped 170,000 Afghans, and trained 4000 Afghans.[1] IAM is registered in Geneva, Switzerland, and is the longest continuously serving NGO in Afghanistan, and only works in Afghanistan.

History[edit]

The International Afghan Mission (IAM) was established in Kabul, on February 2, 1966. It began from the efforts of teachers and medical specialists who were interested in working in Afghanistan. IAM’s first projects were the National Organisation for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR), the Medical Assistance Program (MAP), a school for the visually impaired (BINA), and a literacy programme.

Over the next 40 years, more projects were added in engineering, maternal health, community development, English as a Foreign Language (EFL), disaster management, micro-enterprise development, mental health, and the study of languages. IAM trains Afghans in all of these roles.

First the war with the Soviet Union, then strife between local Mujahideen groups, and then changes in government required the moving or closing of some projects at various times since 1966.

In 1978, the International Afghan Mission changed its name to the International Assistance Mission.

In August 2001, the Taliban expelled IAM from Afghanistan.[2] One month later, due to the imminent attack from the USA following September 11, 2001; the Taliban expelled all aid groups from Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, IAM was invited to return. This three-month period in 2001 is the only time that IAM has not served in Afghanistan since 1966.

In November 2008, the Deputy Minister of Economy, Dr Nazir Ahmad, thanked IAM for more than 40 years of humanitarian work in Afghanistan. Since 1966, IAM has helped an estimated five million Afghans, particularly through its NOOR eye care work.

Ten members of an IAM Eye Camp team, including several doctors, were murdered in August 2010 in the Afghan province of Badakhshan.[2][3][4]

Current projects[edit]

An eye operation at one of the NOOR teaching hospitals.

National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR)
The NOOR programme provides the vast majority of all ophthalmic care in Afghanistan. NOOR takes its name from a Persian word meaning “light”, and is the longest running IAM programme. It has referral eye hospitals in the main cities of Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kandahar. It founded and continues to provide logistical support to the government eye hospitals in Kabul and Herat. NOOR oversees community eye hospitals in Khost and Ghazni. Mobile eye camps serve other more outlying areas.[5]

In 2010, NOOR treated 109,000 patients and performed 6700 surgeries. In addition, Ministry of Public Health eye hospitals supported by NOOR saw 160,000 patients. It dispensed nearly 14,000 pairs of glasses, and 409,000 bottles of eyedrops. NOOR has a particular emphasis on training and it runs a three-year ophthalmology residency programme. Almost all ophthalmologists and all ophthalmic technicians in Afghanistan have been trained by NOOR. 20 ophthalmic technicians and 3 ophthalmologists were trained in 2010.

Community Development Projects (CDP)
CDP works through a variety of projects that are designed to increase a community’s capacity to meet their basic needs. Afghan facilitators and expatriate consultants work within remote communities for several years to help them manage their own development in just and sustainable ways. CDP projects include food security, agriculture, literacy, health awareness, and micro-business loans, plus the building of roads, wells and latrines. CDP assists thousands of people in Faryab, Ghor and Herat provinces.

Collection of artificial legs from the OWPC

Primary Mental Health Projects (PMHP)
Begun in 1996 in response to the high suicide rate among women, PMHP provide outpatient psychiatric clinics, including counseling, for those with mental health conditions and those in psycho-social crises. It provides training in mental health for medical students, doctors, nurses and midwives. In 2010, PMHP treated 9,452 patients and gave training to 593 people.

Orthopedic Workshop and Physiotherapy Center (OWPC)
The OWPC aims to reduce the impact of disability in Faryab province. It trains Afghan staff to provide services to people with disabilities. In 2010, it provided over 1900 orthopaedic appliances and assistive devices, and provided physiotherapy to over 1000 people. OWPC also uses Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) to increase community awareness of disability issues, and to help disabled people with education, healthcare and livelihood development.

Physical Therapy Institute (PTI)
PTI trains physical therapists with a three-year Diploma course, and trains physical therapy teachers. It develops physical therapy materials and has an outpatient clinic.

An Afghan IAM RESAP engineer working on a micro-hydro turbine.

Renewable Energy Sources in Afghanistan Project (RESAP)
RESAP works to build up the local renewable energy industry throughout the country. It uses Afghan-made micro-hydro plants and wind turbines to provide electricity for rural regions. RESAP also trains Afghan engineers and technicians to build and install these units.

Adult Learning and Education Facilitation (ALEF)
The ALEF project works in three provinces to provide non-formal adult education and vocational training. Using folkbildning methods, ALEF offers learning circles in tailoring, mobile phone repair, computer skills, literacy, English language, maternal and infant health, and vocational counseling. It also provides training for trainers of adult learners.

English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
The IAM EFL programme teaches intermediate and advanced levels of English to assist Afghans in their professional and academic careers. In 2010, 681 students were taught.

Language and Orientation Programme (LOP)
IAM provides an orientation programme and language courses in Dari and Pashto for expatriate workers and diplomats in Afghanistan.

Business Development Services (BDS)
BDS teaches very basic business skills and literacy to low-income Afghan women. Its aim is to contribute to the socio-economic development of families and communities by enabling them to run simple home-based businesses. In 2010, BDS taught 145 women, and 35 workers from other NGOs were trained as trainers.

Professional training
In addition to the above, IAM also seconds professionals to train Afghans in the government, hospitals, other NGOs, and private businesses. Most of the professionals in these Individual Service Assignments (ISA) have years of experience in Afghanistan and speak the local language.

Former projects[edit]

Wakhi Language Development (WLD)
Wakhi is a minority language with no written form, it is spoken only in Wakhan, in north-eastern Afghanistan. WLD was launched in April 2009 to research, analyse and document Wakhi and develop easy reading materials, so that Wakhi speakers are able to receive education in their mother tongue. In 2010 this project was handed over to another NGO.

Hazarajat Community Health Project (HCHP)
Initially begun by IAM as a Mother & Child Health Clinic in 1999, this project expanded to include 157 Health Posts, 5 Basic Health Centers (BHC), and a Comprehensive Health Center (CHC). HCHP became responsible to provide the primary health service for the district in Lal-wa-Sarjangal. HCHP trained nurses, vaccinators, and community health supervisors. In 2008, it treated almost 30,000 patients. In May 2009, the responsibility of HCHP was handed over to an Afghan NGO.

Structure[edit]

The International Assistance Mission only works in Afghanistan and its Headquarters are in Kabul. IAM is directed by a board of 30 members who meet annually. The board appoints the 9-member Executive Committee and the Executive Director. Dirk R Frans is the current ED.

IAM is registered as a non-profit association in Geneva, Switzerland. IAM is also registered in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan under the Ministry of Economy. It was the first NGO to be re-registered under the new Afghan government in 2005.

IAM is a signatory to the Principles of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes,[6][7] and ascribes to the code that aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint. IAM fully commits to the standard that aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind.

Staff[edit]

In 2010, IAM employed 500 paid Afghan staff, and 60 professional volunteers from Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania. Foreign staff members are required to learn a local language and the average length of assignment is 3 years. Some IAM expatriate staff have stayed over 20 years in Afghanistan. In 2009, a German nurse retired after 37 years of working with IAM in a remote rural area.

All IAM expatriate staff come as volunteers and are responsible for their own financial support.

Attacks and casualties[edit]

Twelve expat volunteers and two Afghan staff have been killed while working with IAM in Afghanistan. The second-most recent incident occurred in August 2010 when suspected Taliban militants ambushed and killed a team of 10 doctors and optometrists who were returning from a medical care trip to remote mountain villages in northeastern Afghanistan.[2] Those killed were six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton, and one German.[8]

2014 Herat shooting[edit]

On 24 July, 2014 two Finnish IAM female aid workers were shot dead by two gunmen on motorbikes while riding in a taxi in Herat.[9][10]

Funding[edit]

Projects are funded by foreign donor organizations, governments, the United Nations, private donations, and locally generated income. No project funds are used for expatriate salaries, allowances, home rents, or daily expenses.

Publications[edit]

Publications in English
  • Enjoy Afghanistan is an orientation manual for expatriate workers and their families in Afghanistan. It includes information about everyday life, history, culture, security, cooking, health and wellbeing, and more.

A collection of language books have been written to assist foreigners in learning the local languages.

  • Conversational Dari
  • Speaking Afghan Pashto
  • Progressing in Pashtu
  • Picture it in Dari and Pashto
  • Dari Verb Notebook
  • 100 Afghan Persian Proverbs
  • Sound the bells, O moon, arise and shine! a collection of Pashto proverbs and tappas.
  • Eat Your Way to Good Health a bilingual cookbook.
  • nosh-e jAn kunEn an IAM cookbook.

The following medical textbooks were written by IAM doctors and personnel in Afghanistan to provide practical, relevant and affordable medical information.

  • Practical Drug Guide a handbook for the correct prescribing of essential drugs.
  • Practical Paediatric Guide information for doctors to reduce infant mortality.
  • Practical Guide to Mental Health Problems
  • Practical Guide to Common Medical Problems
  • Medical Dari a language resource in Dari and Hazaragi for medical professionals.
  • Pocket Medical Pashto
Publications in Dari
  • Eat Your Way to Good Health a bilingual cookbook.
  • Practical Drug Guide is a handbook for the correct prescribing of essential drugs.
  • Practical Paediatric Guide
  • Practical Guide to Mental Health Problems
  • Practical Guide to Common Medical Problems

The following simple business skills books were written by IAM's BDS project to help low-income uneducated Afghan women into self-employment.

  • Step by Step
  • First Steps
  • Teacher's Guide to First Steps
  • Picture Books a set of 24 illustrated story books, each explaining a different business principle.
Publications in Pashto
  • Practical Drug Guide is a handbook for the correct prescribing of essential drugs.

References[edit]

External links[edit]