Delivering Goods in Afghanistan’s Hour of Need

Video | 26 April 2021

Landlocked Afghanistan depends heavily on trade for food and other imports to meet its domestic needs. An improved transport system can transform Afghanistan into a more productive economy and address the prevailing challenges of poverty.

The ADB-funded Mazar-e-Sharif to Hairatan railway is an important link that helps to maximize the country’s trade and commerce with international markets. Since it opened in 2011, the railway has helped import greater quantities of vital supplies including staple goods more quickly and cheaply.

The 75-kilometer railway brought in some 730,000 tons of wheat flour and critical food during the COVID-19 lockdown in March-July 2020, when the country needed them the most.


Landlocked Afghanistan depends heavily on trade for food and other imports.

When COVID-19 forced borders to close, trade stalled and food prices soared.

But thanks to the ADB-funded Mazar-e-Sharif to Hairatan railway, Afghanistan maintained steady imports of staple goods.

The line brought in some 730,000 tons* of wheat flour and critical food during the lockdown—delivering in Afghanistan’s hour of need.

(*March-July 2020)

Soundbite: Haji Khairuddin Mayel, Food Trader

“During the quarantine, the only route opened to Afghanistan was the Central Asian Railway route through Uzbekistan, which enabled us to import all our necessities. Later, we delivered the food staples including wheat, flour, and oil to 24 provinces of Afghanistan.”

The 75-kilometer railway links Mazar-e-Sharif in the north with Hairatan on the border with Uzbekistan, providing much-needed goods, income, and hope.

Afghanistan is a key trade hub.

It links Central Asia with the large economies of South Asia and the Middle East.

The railway is a crucial part of the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation Program, a partnership for 11 countries to promote economic growth and development.

Soundbite: Mohammad Yama Shams, Head of Afghanistan Railway Authority

“This project has played a vital role. Since its opening we have transported more than 26 million tons of goods to Afghanistan, which has played obviously a greater role in the economic development of the country and reasonable logistic and transportation cost of the goods to Afghanistan. Cross-border facilitation is of high importance. I believe that when it comes to regional connectivity, we must focus on the cross-border facilitation.”

Plans to develop the areas around the railway and expand the network are underway.

Soundbite: Narendra Singru, Country Director, Afghanistan Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank

“ADB is currently in discussion with the government to further support the uptake of railways as part of an efficient and sustainable transport system. This means developing multimodal hubs at key locations to help seamless road-rail connections, and also the need for the improvement of the strategic railway links to neighboring countries.”

Just as the Mazar-e-Sharif railway helped to feed Afghanistan during the COVID-19 lockdown, the line will help to keep the country moving toward sustainable development.