On Friday, USAID honored a fallen colleague and friend, Ragaei Abdelfattah, who lost his life in Afghanistan. A plaque bearing his name was adjoined to a memorial remembering all USAID staff who have died while carrying out USAID’s mission around the world.
Trained in architecture and urban planning, Ragaei used his knowledge and skills to help others. From working for the United Nations Development Program in Egypt to the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission in the Washington, DC area, he shaped the physical world, and was pursuing a PhD in planning, governance and globalization at Virginia Tech to expand his impact. In 2011, he chose to serve his country by joining USAID and working in eastern Afghanistan to help local communities improve governance and advance development.
He believed in the importance of Afghans having opportunities to better their lives – from Afghan girls having access to school to poor farmers having the ability to register the land their families have owned for generations.
One of the projects Ragaei was working on was helping the Afghan government further develop an industrial park in Nangarhar province. They hoped this park would bring electricity, employment, and lasting economic progress to the Afghans living there. Supporting Afghans as their rebuild their country — the virtuous cycle has begun where international investments are spurring private sector investments and increased economic growth. Regaei’s work is having a lasting impact.
In the months since his passing I have learned a lot about his spirit and dedication. Stories from colleagues, friends and family paint a picture of a hardworking, generous man with a sense of humor. A man admired by the Afghans and Americans with whom he worked, he pushed for sustainable, Afghan-led solutions to development challenges. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage sons. And the legacy of his work goes on, carried forward by the many Americans and Afghans he inspired with his good nature, his inexhaustible commitment, and his friendly smile.
Thanks to the work of Ragaei and his colleagues incredible development gains have been achieved in Afghanistan over the last 11 years. From increasing the number of children in school to eight million, to increasing the life expectancy by 15 to 20 years, to a 20 percent increase in government revenues, to a five-fold increase in GDP, there has been undeniable progress.
On August 8, 2012 as Ragaei headed to a meeting at a provincial governor’s compound, he was killed with three coalition soldiers and an Afghan by an explosion.
Secretary Clinton said of his tragic death,“Ragaei’s work over the last year was critical to our efforts to support Afghanistan’s political, economic, and security transitions and was an example of the highest standards of service.” Ragaei showed the deep commitment and sacrifice of the many dedicated USAID staff who serve in conflict countries like Afghanistan around the world.
USAID will continue Ragaei’s important work supporting the Afghan people to create a stable and secure Afghanistan for themselves.
Follow Assistant Administrator Alex Thier on Twitter at @Thieristan.