U.S. Aid to Afghanistan
For the past 18 years, U.S. involvement has been a constant in Afghanistan. Much of that involvement takes the form of financial aid. The economic and development aid offered to Afghanistan by the U.S. since 2001 has had a positive impact, but an emphasis on military aid diminishes that impact greatly. This article provides 10 facts about U.S. aid to Afghanistan.

10 Facts About U.S. Aid to Afghanistan

  1. As of 2016, U.S. aid to Afghanistan amounted to $5.1 billion per year. Of that aid, $3.7 billion went towards security. Afghanistan also received more economic help from the U.S. than any country outside Africa.
  2. Total annual U.S. spending on Afghanistan amounted to about $45 billion as of 2018. Most of that spending was funding to military forces and security objectives. The U.S. spent only $800 million on economic development.
  3. Afghanistan’s GDP has increased from $4.055 billion in 2002 to $19.444 billion in 2017. Primary school enrollment increased from about 22 percent in 2001 to 98 percent in 2004 after only three years of U.S. aid and has not gone below 90 percent since then. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Afghanistan was about 56. It has increased steadily since then and reached about 64 by 2017.
  4. USAID involvement in Afghanistan began in 2002. Humanitarian aid from USAID has had long-term impacts on conditions in the country. USAID faces more challenges with regard to development projects because of ongoing violence. USAID cooperated with the U.N. to transport emergency food supplies to Afghanistan by air.
  5. In 2018, USAID spent over $145 million on initiatives in Afghanistan. The three primary initiatives of 2018 focused on responding to natural disasters and providing food-related aid.
  6. In 2018, U.S. aid to Afghanistan targeted agriculture more directly. USAID repaired 177 kilometers of irrigation systems, positively affecting about 30,000 hectares of land. USAID also distributed vouchers allowing Afghan farmers to purchase more farming equipment and formed the Agriculture Development Fund, which provides credit and assistance for farmers and their families.
  7. USAID also works to improve Afghan infrastructure. USAID increased access to electricity in Afghanistan by 73 percent from 2010 to 2016. Currently, USAID is supporting a project to expand access to electricity to the entirety of southern Afghanistan. The construction of hundreds of schools and hospitals occurred in Afghanistan with U.S. support. In the past decade, over two million Afghans gained access to clean water thanks to USAID cooperation with the Afghan government.
  8. Despite the amount of U.S. aid sent to Afghanistan, poverty persists. The poorest Afghans continue to struggle with illiteracy and unemployment. High amounts of military aid have not affected the high rates of poverty that exist in Afghanistan.
  9. As of 2018, the U.S. was spending more on Afghanistan than ever. But the U.S. only used $780 million of the $45 billion for economic and development purposes. Most of the $45 billion was used for military and security purposes.
  10. Since 2012, the majority of U.S. aid to Afghanistan has been military aid. In 2012 alone, $9.95 billion of the total $12.9 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan was military aid. This decision led to criticism from the Human Rights Watch.

Military aid cannot solve poverty in Afghanistan alone. U.S. development and economic aid are vital to Afghanistan at this time. To protect this type of U.S. aid to Afghanistan, U.S. voters can email their representatives in Congress.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

 

Children in AfghanistanConflict in Afghanistan has persisted for more than two decades, with active U.S. involvement starting in October 2001. Political instability, violence, and persecution led to the displacement of more than 360,000 people in 2017 alone. This displacement causes a lack of stability in employment, shelter, food, and education, In times of ongoing conflict, safety becomes the top priority, and education is largely neglected. While conflicts must be resolved, improving access to education in Afghanistan is critical to enable this nation to reduce poverty and improve overall quality of life.

Targeted Attacks on Girls’ Education

While the lack of access to education in Afghanistan stems from a range of political and social conflicts, there have also been direct attacks on girls’ education. UNICEF reports that around 3.7 million children are not enrolled in school in Afghanistan, and girls make up 60 percent of that number. Terrorist groups such as the Taliban specifically target girls’ education institutions because they believe women should not be educated.

According to Human Rights Watch, bombings and acid attacks are not uncommon forms of violence at girls’ schools. In Kandahar, one such attack in 2008 that injured 15 girls led many families to prevent their daughters from attending school. Fear of violence is a prominent reason that many girls in Afghanistan do not receive an education.

Barriers to Education Access

Besides targeted attacks, girls are less likely to attend school for cultural reasons, including expectations to marry at a young age and raise children. The demand for teachers and schools remains relatively low, as geographic barriers such as terrain, climate, and location effect school attendance. According to UNICEF, only 48 percent of teachers have attained the minimum required qualifications to teach. As conflicts continue, expanding access to education in Afghanistan will be difficult. International policies such as the Safe Schools Declaration, which protects education during violent conflict, can help encourage children to attend school. Foreign aid can also provide resources to give teachers better training and updated classroom materials.

How Can Education Reduce Poverty?

Improved access to education will profoundly impact Afghanistan’s poverty rate and overall economic health. Education is critical to “break the cycle of poverty,” as ChildFund International states. Educated individuals are more likely to hold jobs, which increases economic security and can help lift people out of poverty. Children with educated parents or caregivers are more likely to attend school, which can help ensure economic security in the future.

In Afghanistan’s Yakawlang District, the Rustam School teaches 330 girls and 146 boys–a sign that education access is improving in some parts of Afghanistan. The Rustam School had a 92 percent college entrance rate in 2017. This school’s success is possible due to the Taliban’s exit from the area surrounding Rustam School, making parents more willing to send their children. The school inspires children to pursue careers that have higher earning potential than the agricultural work common to families. If more institutions in Afghanistan can follow the Rustam School’s example, perhaps education access will expand for both girls and boys, and a new generation of educated citizens will help to stabilize Afghanistan’s politics and expand its economy.

– Erin Grant
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in AfghanistanPolitical and economic instability have been facts of life in Afghanistan for decades. However, one of the few institutions that has made a significant recovery is the education system. There are still twice as many boys in school as there are girls. However, since 2008, the overall number of girls in school has gone up significantly.

Changing attitudes about girls’ education in Afghanistan have bolstered female enrollment rates. This shift has, in turn, increased support for public education in general and foreign aid—particularly from the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID statistics offer some encouraging numbers to support this:

  • Of 9 million children enrolled in schools, 3.5 million are girls,
  • USAID has distributed over 170 million textbooks, and
  • USAID has helped train 280,000 new teachers.

The Rustam School

One promising example of this shift forward is the Rustam School, located in the Yakawlang district. The Rustam School possesses a small student body of only a few hundred. Nevertheless, 92 percent of its graduating class moved onto Afghanistan’s public universities in 2017.

Inverting the country’s enrollment statistics, two-thirds of the Rustam School’s students are girls. To note, the Taliban outlawed girls’ education in Afghanistan and pushed many boys into Islamic studies, rather than popular STEM courses. However, students, particularly girls, apply themselves rigorously to their education. They go so far as to learn the Windows operating systems without the aid of a computer.

The Fight for Education

Unlike in the United States, where public K-12 education is universal, the fight for education in Afghanistan has a checkered past. As far back as the 1970s, mujaheddin resistance fighters (rebelling against the USSR’s attempted occupation of Afghanistan) were killing government-paid teachers and closing down their schools.

With over half of the country’s 36 million citizens under the age of 18, the investment and safeguarding of education are more critical than ever. In recognition of this fact, USAID, the Pentagon and the State Department have invested $759 million in primary and secondary education over the last 17 years. These investments have fostered the changing attitudes of both local politicians and regional power-brokers—with the constant exception of the Taliban.

Though the expansion and protection of girls’ education in Afghanistan have had much progress, there is still room for improvement. The majority of Afghan girls are not enrolled in public school. This is explained by two main factors. First, most Afghan girls still marry at a very young age (for a variety of sociocultural factors). Subsequently, this causes a lack of female teachers and all-girls’ schools. Second, Afghanistan faces logistical difficulty when it comes to extending education to rural areas. Long walks to school sometimes have significant geographical barriers along the way that physically prevent students from attending. Also, many rural families are subsistence farmers; it is difficult for students to go to school if they have animals or crops to look after. However, the Rustam School proves that though providing education to rural Afghan children may be difficult, it is not impossible.

The Future of Education

Despite the recent progress and development of education in Afghanistan since the early 2000s, significant hurdles exist for girls’ education. The country’s education system must still be further advanced. However, a local initiative can make do with minimal resources and reach out to rural areas—like the Rustam School. Most importantly, despite its shortcomings, Afghanistan’s primary and secondary education systems offer success stories of what foreign aid can accomplish, especially if maintained over long periods of time.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Top Facts about Education in AfghanistanWhen the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the percentage of Afghan children attending school was extremely low. Now, the educational landscape of Afghanistan is vastly different. More children, especially girls, are enrolled in school. More importantly, they are staying in school. These top 10 facts about education in Afghanistan provide a glimpse of what education looks like in the country now.

Top 10 Facts About Education in Afghanistan

  1. As of 2019, over 9 million Afghan children are in school.
    Around 300,000 students are attending colleges and universities. Additionally, 480,000 new teachers were placed in Afghan schools. Their training was funded by the U.S. Agency for International for Development initiatives.
    https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/education
  2. It is rare for Afghan children to drop out of school once they are enrolled.
    Approximately 85 percent of children who start primary school also finish primary school. Plus, nearly 94 percent of boys and 90 percent of girls who start secondary school also finish secondary school.
  3. Literacy rates are high in urban areas.
    Although literacy rates in rural Afghanistan remain relatively low, this is not the case in urban areas. Literacy rates for women living in urban areas are as high as 34.7 percent. However, literacy rates for men living in urban areas are as high as 68 percent.
  4. SEA is improving education.
    Strengthening Education in Afghanistan, a USAID initiative, aims to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Afghanistan. Thanks to SEA, over 4,500 teachers received training in 2018. In the same year, 710 women received scholarships. This allowed them to work toward receiving bachelor’s degrees. SEA scholarships also allowed 150 women to work toward receiving master’s degrees at universities in India.
  5. U.S. interference has improved education.
    In 2007, six years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, 60 percent of Afghan children attended school in temporary settings like tents instead of in school buildings. About 80 percent of teachers were deemed unqualified. The education of 5 million children was restored but 50 percent of children were still not in school. In the past 12 years, improvements have been made on all of these fronts.
  6. There are currently over 3 million children out of school in Afghanistan.
    Out of these 3 million, 60 percent are female. Nearly 17 percent of Afghan girls get married before they turn 15, meaning that they leave school sooner than their male peers.
  7. The number of Afghan children in school is higher now than in 2001.
    While more Afghan children are in school now than in 2001, there have not been significant increases in enrollment numbers since 2011. There are also some parts of Afghanistan that have seen decreased enrollment numbers during the past four years.
  8. In some Afghan provinces, female enrollment rates are as low as 14 percent.
    Only 33 percent of Afghan teachers are female. The number of female teachers varies widely from one region to the next. In some provinces, 74 percent of teachers are female. In others, only 1.8 percent of teachers are female.
  9. Around 50 percent of Afghans age 15 to 24 are illiterate.
    Afghan government spending grew three times higher from 2010 to 2015. However, spending on education was not increased proportionally. Over 50 percent of university students are from high-income areas.
  10. Girls have almost half as many years of schooling than boys.
    As of 2014, boys spend 13 years in school on average. Girls spend an average of eight years in school. Moreover, only 38.2 percent of the adult population is literate. As of 2017, Afghanistan was ranked 79th globally in terms of youth unemployment, with 17.6 percent of its population aged 15-24 unemployed.

These top 10 facts about education in Afghanistan show that though there is still room for improvement, the efforts made in the past 18 years have led to positive results. Needless to say, education is vital. The people of Afghanistan cannot overcome poverty and move toward peace without schools. Fortunately, the Afghan government and multiple organizations, including USAID, have made a great deal of progress. International support, including support for USAID from U.S. voters, can further maintain the progress of education in Afghanistan.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan
Hardship and struggles have been reoccurring for Afghanistan and its residents for several years. Afghanistan’s civil war broke the country, but it has been attempting to rebuild. Afghans have been working to begin their lives again and be able to provide for their families. Luckily, there is some humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan helping the country get back on its feet.

Issues and Conflicts

At the close of March, the United States announced an additional $61 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. This assistance will work to provide for communities that have been affected the most, such as displaced persons, returning refugees and Afghan refugees located in the region. Afghans initially fled their country because of the ongoing conflict and the very frequent natural disasters. Natural disasters include landslides, flash-floods and avalanches. Afghanistan has been dealing with these humanitarian issues and natural disasters for at least 17 years. The $61 million in humanitarian aid assistance will fund emergency food assistance, nutrition services, hygiene kits, safe drinking water, access to latrines and protection.

In 2001, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began working on the stability operations project, which others know as the nation-building project. No matter the name, the goals were the same. USAID was to bring peace and stability to conflicted areas of the country, repair institutions and infrastructure, establish functioning government services and build the country to endure long-term success. For the first year of the nation-building project, the lack of security, fragility of government institutions and lack of agreement caused progress to be slow and complex. In 2002, progress took a turn for the better. USAID’s humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan included work towards the country’s poor infrastructure, lost generations, refugees, Afghanistan’s limited government and its low literacy rates.

The Progress

USAID’s progress in Afghanistan is what follows:

  1. Afghanistan children are in school today. Millions of children are receiving an education, including girls.
  2. The country has expanded primary health care. This has resulted in reduced maternal and under-five infant mortality rates.
  3. Life expectancy has improved. Life expectancy has risen from 41 years of age to 61 years of age.
  4. USAID is helping the country build new infrastructure including highways, secondary roads, irrigation systems, schools and clinics.
  5. USAID is also helping provide the country with electricity. Initially, only five percent of the country had electricity. Now, 33 percent of the country has electricity.
  6. The country now has a functioning government. Amidst all of the progress USAID and Afghans are making in Afghanistan, USAID launched the first stabilization program in 2002. The point of this program was to “support the U.S. military’s “clear, hold and build” approach to counterinsurgency in areas designated key terrain districts.” What was initially supposed to be long-term programming to aid Afghans and Afghanistan turned into quick-response, quick-impacted programs.

The Programs

USAID’s four implemented programs are as follows:

  1. Stabilization in Key Areas: USAID designed this program to promote good governance and service delivery. The projected outcomes of this program include the construction of infrastructure projects and making sub-national governments more efficient.
  2. Afghanistan Vouchers to Increase Production: This program includes a focus on agriculture in Afghanistan. USAID created the program in order to increase the incomes of Afghan farmers and expand their opportunities. As of 2018, USAID facilitated over $201.4 million in domestic and international sales of agricultural goods, supported over 190,000 households with agricultural interventions, supported more than 2,200 agricultural enterprises, created 3,365 full-time jobs and rehabilitated irrigation canals.
  3. Afghanistan Social Outreach: The country’s social outreach programs work to develop community councils. These councils will consist of 30 to 50 people and be a platform for local needs.
  4. Strategic Provincial Roads: This program focuses on infrastructure, electricity and potable water. As of 2018, USAID partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which will provide engineering services for the North East Power Systems and South East Power Systems. Also, 380 kilometers of a 220 kilowatts transmission line is being constructed so electricity can reach southern Afghanistan.

With the additional humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan from USAID, these programs and initiatives will have more support, which will lead to the opportunity to make changes and implementations when, and where, needed.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in AfghanistanAfter suffering through an extreme drought for months, Afghanistan now faces a new crisis: severe flash floods. As many as 112,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Afghanistan and entire homes or villages have been swept away. In light of both droughts and conflict, the U.N. has estimated that 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2019. The country has faced extreme adversity and is in desperate need of crucial and life-saving aid.

Drought and Flooding

The extreme drought the country has been facing has made it more difficult for the soil to absorb water, which makes flooding more likely. The El Niño weather phenomenon is also largely responsible for the extreme amounts of rainfall experienced by Afghanistan. Some forecasters have predicted that due to this chaotic weather pattern, rainfall could increase by 40 to 50 percent through May. These chaotic changes in weather have had disastrous effects on Afghanistan and its neighbors. Although the rain has stopped, many in Afghanistan fear that even worse flooding is yet to come. The region is often hit by flash floods due to its rocky terrain, but many claim this is the worst flooding the country has seen in years.

Humanitarian Aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross requested an emergency appeal of 7 million Swiss francs, which they mean to use to support up to 650,000 people affected by the flooding in Afghanistan who need immediate relief. The IFRC wants to use this money to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to those affected by both extreme drought and flooding. Recently, USAID with support of the Department of Defense airlifted over 200 metric tons of relief items regions in Afghanistan. The U.S. also announced that they would be providing an additional $61 million in aid relief funds to provide food assistance, hygiene and safe water.

World Disaster Report

Every year the IFRC conducts a World Disaster Report in order to provide more insight into the causes and effects of disaster situations. The IFRC, in partnership with ARC, launched a campaign last year to research natural disasters in Afghanistan. The report’s findings found that not enough money was being invested in risk prevention and a majority of financial aid was being spent after disasters rather than before. It concluded that building resilience and preparedness within communities before disaster strikes is one of the most important factors in reducing the effects of natural disasters.

Extreme drought and severe flooding in Afghanistan have left its people in a state of emergency. The flooding has also begun to hit Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and is causing the same kind of destruction and displacement. Thousands have been displaced and even more are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Both U.N. organizations and IFRC are providing crucial aid to combat the aftermath of the flooding in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr


With a population of nearly 35 million people, Afghanistan is the 39th most populated country in the world. Due to political instability, terrorism and economic insecurity, hunger in Afghanistan is now an extremely prevalent epidemic. Below are important facts about the state of malnutrition in Afghanistan and its possible future.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Afghanistan

  1. As of 2017, Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of almost 24 percent, ranking it as 194th out of 218 total countries. Additionally, 54 percent of its population falls below the poverty line.
  2. Afghanistan’s economy relies heavily on agriculture. About 23 percent of the country’s GDP consists of agriculture. Due partly to natural disasters such as localized floods, dry spells and widespread insect infestations, Afghanistan suffered from a food deficit. In fact, the 2017 crop harvest suffered a 1.5 million ton production deficit in comparison to the 2016 and 5-year average production rate.
  3. Afghanistan developed a high rate of childhood stunting, the impaired growth of a child as a result of malnutrition. In fact, the country has a 41 percent prevalence rate of moderate and severe stunting. Some consequences of stunting include poor cognition, excessive weight gain in later childhood and a higher chance of suffering from nutrition-related disease during adult life.
  4. Wasting is when an individual is considered too thin for their weight or height. It is the result of rapid weight loss or lack of weight gain. Wasting is of medium prevalence in the country of Afghanistan. In fact, between 5 and 10 percent of children in Afghanistan suffer from wasting.
  5. Breastfeeding is extremely beneficial to the growth and development of a child as breast milk meets all the nutritional needs of an infant during the first six months of life. However, only 41 percent of newborns infants receive early initiation of breastmilk in Afghanistan. This trend does not become better as time goes on, as 43 percent of Afghan children are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life.
  6. Iodine is a mineral found only in a few foods. However, it is necessary for the body to produce thyroid hormones, which in turn regulate the body’s metabolism. Therefore, many meet their recommended amount of iodine by consuming iodized salt, which is salt fortified with iodine. However, only 57 percent of households in Afghanistan consume iodized salt – putting much of the population at higher risk for iodine deficiency disorder.
  7. Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks healthy red blood cells capable of carrying oxygen to tissues throughout the body. It is commonly caused by the lack of essential nutrients, such as iron, folate and vitamin B-12 in the body. One in three Afghan girls suffers from anemia. Prolonged anemia can result in severe fatigue, heart problems and pregnancy complications.
  8. Vitamin A consists of a group of fat-soluble retinoids necessary for immune function, vision, reproduction and cell communication. Vitamin A deficiency is highly prevalent in Afghan children aged six to 59 months. However, due to the implementation of widespread nutrition programs, 98 percent of the Afghan population now supplements for vitamin A.
  9. In response to the spread of malnutrition throughout the country, Afghanistan joined the Scaling Up Nutrition movement (SUN). In addition to 59 other countries, Afghanistan will work in a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder space in order to end malnutrition.
  10. By putting an end to hunger in Afghanistan, the country stands to gain other enormous benefits as a well-nourished individual tends to complete more years of school and learn better. Therefore, by reducing malnutrition, Afghanistan will be able to see a boost in its economy, growth and development.

Shreya Gaddipati

Poverty and Corruption in AfghanistanAfghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Peace Talks in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has endured war for decades with very little opportunity to rebuild and address the growing poverty rates and diminishing living conditions of its people.

In recent months, U.S. officials have begun discussions of peace talks in Afghanistan including plans to withdraw U.S. troops. The question is how will the prospects of peace under the terms that are being discussed affect poverty levels and quality of life for the Afghan citizens? Although peace is necessary for the growth of the Afghan economy, a reduction in U.S. support and funding could be detrimental to the lives of the Afghan people.

Effects of Conflict on Population

Years of conflict have had a disastrous effect on poverty in Afghanistan. According to a study from the World Bank, the number of people living below the poverty line has grown from 38.3 percent in 2012 to 55 percent in 2017, an increase of 5 million people. In addition, necessary resources such as education and employment remain inaccessible to the average Afghan citizen.

Secondary education attendance rates have dropped from 37 percent of children in 2013 to 35 percent of children attending in 2016. This decline is largely due to fewer girls attending school. Unemployment is rampant with 25 percent of the population unemployed and 80 percent of jobs qualify as insecure, meaning they consist of self or own account employment, day labor, or unpaid work. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the economy of Afghanistan is dependent upon three main factors: foreign aid, the sale of narcotics and the Taliban.

Peace Talks in Afghanistan

In order for the Afghan economy to successfully recover and improve the quality of life of its citizens, institutional changes must be made. The peace talks in Afghanistan may provide an opportunity to end the cycle of poverty in Afghanistan, but only if it is done carefully and political stability can be ensured. Peace in Afghanistan would be beneficial for the economy, allowing for the opportunity to spend less on war efforts and more on the needs of the poor. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), estimates suggest that a return to the low levels of violence that were recorded in 2004 would result in an increase in annual revenues of around 50 percent, or approximately 6 percent of GDP per year.

However, this is only the case if the peace talks in Afghanistan are successful in creating political stability. For example, in 2014, allegations of election fraud created a highly unstable political atmosphere in Afghanistan resulting in a fall in the country’s revenue and growth. An inability for the Afghan government and the Taliban to find an agreement that is suitable them both in the peace process may result in a similar instability and economic downturn.

US Aid and The Afghanistan Economy

The Afghan economy is reliant upon U.S. aid and when that aid has been cut in the past, the effects have been detrimental for the lives of the Afghan people. In 2013/2014, the U.S. reduced civil aid and withdrew a portion of its forces. In the same year, there was a 3 percent increase in the overall poverty rate, the unemployment rate for Afghan men tripled and 76 percent of rural jobs that were created in 2007/2008 were lost.

Should U.S. aid be cut in a new peace deal, the effects will not be positive for the poverty levels in Afghanistan. Peace is necessary to create substantial economic growth in Afghanistan. However, any peace talks in Afghanistan that fail to address the political instability in the country and that reduce foreign aid to the Afghan people can only result in further suffering for the country.

Success Stories

Despite the bleak realities of war and violence in Afghanistan, there have been several successful aid programs in the country that have been improving the lives of the citizens. For example, the government of Afghanistan has struggled to implement an effective police force. As a result of the UNDP’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) over 150,000 Afghan police officers receive payment on time and accurately. The organization has also taken the initiative to recruit and train female police officers, resulting in 70 Police Women Councils in every province in Afghanistan. The UNDP has also funded a program to create 19  hydroelectric power plants, which are now supplying electricity to 18,606 people in Afghanistan.

Although war has ravaged Afghanistan for decades, the presence of various nongovernmental organizations and their projects to improve the lives of the citizens in combination with peace talks currently ongoing in Afghanistan that can ensure political stability and continued aid to the country have the possibility to break the cycle of poverty.

– Alina Patrick

Photo: Flickr

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria - The Final Three
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It is a devastating disease that primarily impacts children and it can survive in the wild, but not for long without a human host. There is no cure, therefore, immunization is the foundation for eradication efforts. Today, polio is almost entirely eradicated from the planet.

Global immunization campaigns have made terrific progress in decreasing wild poliovirus (WPV) cases by over 99 percent in the past 30 years, down from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 29 reported cases in 2018. While more work needs to be done, the world is closing in on the virus and all eyes are on polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria- the three final endemic countries. In the text below, the status of polio in these three countries is presented.

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan

Between the three countries listed above, in 2018 the most global polio cases were reported in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan is the only endemic country not currently battling vaccine-derived polio, a form that can paralyze, in addition to WPV, which is a victory. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Emergency Operation Centres, has dedicated continuing high-priority surveillance and instituted an aggressive immunization campaign to eradicate WPV in order to protect those most affected.

In November 2018, the country concluded an immunization campaign that targeted over five million children in the highest-risk provinces. These accomplishments are impressive, but at the same time fragile, because every single child must be vaccinated in this rapidly growing country. The Emergency Operation Centres are continuing to work under a National Emergency Action Plan and with local communities to ensure that all children are consistently reached now and in the future.

Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Polio could be eliminated from Pakistan this year, with continued strategic implementation. A vaccination campaign in December reached nearly 40 million children and the number of reported cases in the country is the lowest it has ever been. The race to the finish line requires continued focus on immunity gaps in high-risk and mobile communities, especially those that are close to the places where the virus is still indigenous, as well as continued accountability and high childhood vaccination rates.

Additionally, several of the endemic polio regions remain on the border with Afghanistan, which will require the two countries to continue addressing these WPV strongholds together. This region highlights the continued global threat of a virus that transcends geopolitical boundaries.

Polio Eradication in Nigeria

While WPV has never stopped circulating in Nigeria, there have not been any WPV cases since 2016. This is a terrific start towards wild polio eradication, but Nigeria has seen years without a WPV outbreak in the past only to see it return. The country is also managing continued vaccine-derived outbreaks. While immunization is paramount to eradication, some forms of the vaccine can infect patients and cause an outbreak. Though this adds a complex level to eradication strategies, immunization remains the most viable solution.

Currently, a variety of innovative solutions are underway to reach children in high-risk areas, including international immunization campaigns in the Lake Chad Basin whenever security permits, market vaccinations and seeking out nomadic communities. Similar to Afghanistan and Pakistan, continued efforts remain focused on closing immunity gaps, vaccinating all children and working with the country’s neighbors, but additional support for political and financial commitment is needed in Nigeria.

Going Forward

Wild polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria is almost complete, but there are several challenges facing major vaccination efforts. In order to achieve elimination, every single child needs to be immunized. Even one unvaccinated child leaves the entire world at risk of infection.

There are, however, real challenges to this seemingly straightforward goal. Barriers like reaching children in mobile populations or in active conflict zones require international political coordination and more resources for mobile and stationary vaccination teams. Another major barrier is vaccine-derived polio cases, which threaten populations that don’t currently see polio in the wild. Research into the implications of adjusting the vaccine are underway and seek to address eliminating the spread of vaccine-derived infection.

It will not be possible to eradicate every disease with vaccination. Polio is one of the ones that can be. As global health efforts target polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, the world will likely be able to list polio next to smallpox and rinderpest on the coveted list of globally eradicated diseases.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr