When we talk about Afghanistan or hear about it in the news, it can be very easy to forget that the insurgents are people and that a huge portion of them is suffering through extreme poverty. For the average Afghan, life can be very difficult and stricken with economic struggle, food insecurity, and a lack of resources to improve their lives. Here are a few facts that may come as a surprise about those living in poverty in Afghanistan.
- Only 28.1% of the entire population over the age of 15 is literate, meaning that 71.9% of adults are incapable of even basic reading and writing skills. On average, those who are capable of going to school only complete about 8 years, with females generally completing 4 years less than their male counterparts.
- A 2008 estimate of the percentage of children aged 5-14 suggests that at least 25% were involved in child labor. UNICEF made an estimate in 2011 that the number had risen to at least 30%. In either case, around ¼ or more of all young kids in the country were being forced to work, therefore missing out on childhood and, most importantly, a proper education.
- 36% of the population, or about 9 million people, lives in absolute, extreme poverty and another 37% lives just above the determined poverty line even though around $35 billion was put into the country from 2002-2009. In fact, the number one killer in Afghanistan is not armed conflict, it is poverty.
- Half of the population still lives without access to improved water sources, this accounts for both men and women living in rural and urban areas.
- For every 100,000 births, 460 mothers die and for every 1,000 births, 119 infants die. This leaves Afghanistan with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world and the third highest infant mortality rate. Many of these deaths would be preventable with trained doctors and expedient, affordable care. But, with less than 1 doctor per every 1000 people, 0.21 of a doctor to be precise, proper care is difficult to come by.
Aid programs are doing what they can to help to citizens of Afghanistan rise about the poverty line, but the country has been torn apart by decades of fighting and inequality. The process will be a long and arduous one, but every person should be able to take care of themselves and provide even just the basic tools for survival for their families.
– Chelsea Evans