Afghanistan is one of the most impoverished nations in Asia. With 36% of its population living below the poverty line, Afghanistan is only second to Bangladesh as Asia’s poorest country.
Poverty is most heavily concentrated in the rural areas of Afghanistan. While 90% of urban households have access to electricity, only 29% of rural households do. Additionally, 58% of urban households have access to safe water, but only 19% of rural homes do.
Illiteracy is also most prevalent in rural areas. The province of Paktia, a rural province located on Afghanistan’s south border, has an illiteracy rate of 73%. Most of its jobs are concentrated in agriculture, with 71% of all employment found in that sector. Its poverty rate stands at 76%.
The lowest rates of poverty occur in Afghanistan’s urban areas. The province of Kabul has a poverty rate of 29% while 36% of Afghans in rural areas and 54% of nomadic Afghans live in poverty. The World Bank has found that “the higher the human capital endowment of the household head, the lower the risk for the household to be poor.” Thus, those who live in rural areas in Afghanistan and have less access to education have a higher risk of living in poverty.
To address the problem of poverty, Afghanistan must improve school enrollment rates. Only a minority of children are enrolled in primary school in Afghanistan. A meager 36% of the poorest Afghans attend primary school, while 46% of the richest Afghans do. Additionally, 43% of boys are enrolled in primary school, while only 31% of girls are.
The effects of the lower school attendance rates of females are evident in women’s literacy rates in Afghanistan. In seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, the female literacy rate is 1%. Even in Afghanistan’s most educated province of Kabul, where the overall literacy rate is 47%, the female literacy reaches only 30%.
These statistics suggest that poverty reduction programs in Afghanistan can begin by focusing on improving the education of all Afghans while also closing the gender gap that is seen in school enrollment. In order for more Afghans to be lifted out of poverty, they must have improved access to education. With better education, Afghans will have better opportunities to earn a higher income and lift themselves out of poverty.
– Jordan Kline
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