Afghanistan's 21 million people are experiencing first-hand the reality of the divide between rich and poor nations - pampered complacency. After the trauma of 23 years of foreign occupation, civil war and a murderous regime, they deserve better than inaction and misplaced help from those who promised salvation. Perhaps aspirations were too high, or maybe there was a belief that the international community's nation-building experiments in Cambodia and East Timor had taught lessons. If the state of Afghanistan's health today is any guide, nothing was learned from the billions of dollars spent in those exercises. Little of the US$4.5 billion (HK$35 billion) pledged in January at a meeting of donor nations in Tokyo has materialised. Reconstruction work has been limited and haphazard. Beggars and the poor line the streets of cities. Hospitals lack the equipment and medicine to treat the sick and injured. Much of Kabul was razed by the fighting which drove out the Taleban. New buildings have risen from the charred remains, but they are for President Hamid Karzai's transitional government and the 2,000 foreign humanitarian workers who have flooded into the country. Elsewhere, life remains challenging, especially for the two million refugees who have already returned. A four-year drought is now into a fifth year and food is scarce. The warlords are still in power and banditry and corruption remain rife. An estimated five million refugees have yet to go home. There is little or no sign of the promised electricity, roads and hospitals which are necessary for Afghanistan to move forward. The funding for their construction has simply not been made available. Without work, the ranks of the unemployed swell. The overthrow of the Taleban was a blessing for Afghans. They now have a united government which represents all ethnic groups. Children are back at school. Women are no longer confined to their homes. There is freedom of speech. A year is a long time for a nation given so many promises. United States and allied soldiers have started shifting their focus from mopping up the remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaeda to building roads and extending security beyond Kabul. Their work will be limited without adequate funding. Developed countries have an obligation to honour their pledges and provide even more assistance. Without help, Afghanistan will fail.