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Poverty in Afghanistan
Afghanistan continues to be a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Yet while there are hundreds of news articles about the country’s politics, there is less information about the country’s people. Below are 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan to provide insight into problems Afghanistan’s poorest citizens face every day.

15 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. About 90 percent of Afghans struggle to live on current income: Over the past decade, poverty in Afghanistan has risen to record-breaking heights. From 2008 to 2018, the number of Afghans reporting that their current income was insufficient to support their family grew from 60 percent to 90 percent. Keep this number in mind when reading the other 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan. These facts apply to 90 percent of the country’s citizens.
  2. Well-being is at global record lows: Poverty not only affects people economically or physically – there is an emotional toll as well. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 36 percent of Afghans said that they smiled or laughed the previous day. When asked to rate their lives on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best), Afghan citizen responses averaged 2.7. Most recently, in 2016, Afghan citizen responses on the same question averaged 4.2.
  3. Education has become a luxury for children: A 2018 U.N. report noted that more than 2 million children aged 6-14 worked to support their families. With an average of 58 percent of Afghan families unable to afford food, full-time work becomes a higher priority than education. In February 2019, UNICEF, the U.N. and the government of Afghanistan launched a long-term education response program projected to help half a million children in the country. The program hopes to raise an additional $35 million within the next year to help support education infrastructure and secure teachers, supplies and similar needs for schools across the entire country.
  4. Undereducated Afghan citizens are the most vulnerable: Undereducated citizens suffer the most during economic downturns in Afghanistan, with an unemployment rate of 8 percent and underemployment (employed, but unable to cover living costs) of 41 percent. With the difficulty of getting an education, the cycle of poverty continues for many families.
  5. Armed conflict is the top reason for poverty: Poverty in Afghanistan is directly linked to increases and decreases in Taliban control in the country. When the Taliban increased influence in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2017, the number of citizens living in poverty increased from 38 percent to 55 percent. The World Bank believes that political settlement with the Taliban would be an important step forward to attract the return of capital and skilled workers from overseas.
  6. Youth migration is a problem: Since 2015, about 146,000 young Afghan workers moved to Europe per year in hopes of starting a better life. The government still struggles to keep young people in the country and implemented a 2015 initiative to help the 700,000 entrants into the Afghan workforce find jobs. However, the program was unsuccessful in generating enough funding to make an impact.
  7. And so is displacement: In 2018 more than 550,000 new Afghan citizens were displaced by conflict and drought. Between displacement and a dwindling young professional population, it is difficult for Afghanistan to keep skilled workers to further its economy.
  8. Government corruption fuels the fire: The economy in Afghanistan grew only 2 percent in 2018. The World Bank reports that the sluggish economy is a direct result of government corruption. This means aid to struggling areas is often delayed or never arrives and economic growth benefits only the country’s highest elite (and former warlords).
  9. Iran affects Afghanistan’s poverty: Approximately 2.5 to 3 million Afghans left home to pursue better economic opportunities in Iran. These migrants have been a vital part of the economy as they send their Iranian wages home to their families. Unfortunately, as the Iranian economy has crashed, so have the available wages. The rial lost approximately 70 percent of its value, drastically decreasing the ability of workers to support their families back home.
  10. Programs struggle with a lack of information: Due to conflicts and a lack of resources, it has been 40 years since the Afghan government has been able to conduct a proper census or any similar survey of the population. This makes planning and poverty initiatives difficult, as there is no data available to support decisions on where to invest aid.
  11. Afghanistan ran on an “artificial” economy: From 2011 to 2014 Afghanistan had an artificial economy, meaning that economic growth and development were wholly reliant on external foreign aid with little to no internal input. With foreign aid and troops dropping after 2014, the country has struggled to reignite its economy.
  12. Research gives hope: The World Bank implemented a test-program in 2015 to help improve economic outcomes for poor citizens. The program provided households in the Balkh province with a temporary stipend and financial coaching. The results showed a 20 percent decrease in the number of households below the national poverty line, a 30 percent increase in consumption, a 17 percent decrease in depression among women and a 53 percent reduction in debt. The World Bank published these findings in 2019, providing the first-ever evidence of similar targeted programs for poor areas in conflict regions.
  13. Trends predict further growth: Based on current trends, the World Bank believes there is hope for further economic growth in Afghanistan. The 2019 World Bank assessment of Afghanistan confirmed prospects are looking positive for Afghanistan, with a projected 2.5 percent growth in 2019 and up to 3.5 percent growth in 2021.
  14. Continued aid is critical: As of 2019, grants support more than 75 percent of Afghanistan’s public expenditures. The U.N. humanitarian workers warn that the withdrawal of aid to Afghanistan could derail the slow but steady growth the country has experienced since 2001.
  15. The 2020 aid package is under congressional review right now: The Department of State and USAID have requested approximately $532.8 million in aid for the financial year 2020. At the time of writing, this request has not yet been approved.

There are tangible issues that fuel poverty, and these 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan represent only a part of the complex issues the country’s economy faces. Remember that a country is more than just its politics – it is made up of people. We can help people through our actions and reduce the suffering of millions of Afghan citizens.

Melanie Rasmussen
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 in Afghanistan facts
In recent memory, people often think of Afghanistan as the nation of the Taliban, who provided sanctuary to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. However, they do not tend to think about how a country falls into the grip of such extremism. Often, when poverty is widespread, terrorism and instability take hold. Poverty in Afghanistan has been a serious problem for nearly three decades, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This instability can make poverty alleviation an uphill battle. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Poverty Status Update Report regarding socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan, the 15 years of growth that the country has seen are now jeopardized by a recent rise in insecurity. The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Shubham Chaudhuri, explains that with poverty rising from 36 to 39 percent of the Afghan population, there need to be reinforcements to guarantee that economic growth reaches Afghan families. For further information about the living conditions of the Afghan people, here are 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. According to Aryana Aid, poverty in Afghanistan stems from two factors: “food insecurity and the lack of a social security net.” As a result, 50 percent of Afghan children are stunted and 20 percent of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight.
  2. Food is distributed unequally throughout the country, going mainly to areas where there is heavy fighting. This puts more strain on people in other areas and contributes to the ongoing food insecurity,
  3. Furthermore, half of the people living in both rural and urban regions have no access to clean water.
  4. The government’s strategy to address food insecurity has been to focus on adequate calorie intake, but this has left people susceptible to food price shocks, meaning they lower the quality of their diet in order to afford food.
  5. The war in Afghanistan is one of the main contributing factors to poverty; 55 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is living in poverty in the worst-hit regions, whereas as other regions have lower poverty rates.
  6. According to Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, the poverty rate in Afghanistan has remained stagnant since the outbreak of war in 2001, even with increases in foreign aid.
  7. Only 28 percent of the entire Afghan population 15 years and older is literate.
  8. Because of the lack of water and other necessities, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
  9. Approximately 70,792 Afghan families are taking refuge in unclean makeshift camps; 25 percent of those families have been living there for more than ten years.
  10. Unemployment is a significant challenge in relocating these and other internally displaced people, as they are reluctant to return to rural areas where there are no jobs available.

To help bring some relief to these issues, Aryana Aid has been providing food packages to the people of Afghanistan since 2009. In early 2018, USAID’s Office of Food For Peace provided $25 million to the World Food Programme; an estimated 547,000 malnourished Afghan people were provided with emergency aid from local and regional marketplaces.

The World Bank projected economic growth for Afghanistan in 2017, by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016. The progression is predicted to continue in 2018 with a 3.2 percent growth, which will help cure the many problems listed on the top 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

How the media misrepresents Afghanistan
Thousands of peoples’ lives were forever changed after the disastrous events of the 9/11/2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. But for over a decade, the stigma of Islam and all Muslims has wrongfully grouped innocent people in with the terrorists that caused harm to the U.S. and other countries.

The Media’s Focus on Radicals

This negative perspective of Muslims’ character stems from tragic events like the Charlie Hebdo attack in France and the alarming beheading videos done by the Islamic State group (ISIS). However, Espiritu believes the media coverage of these events focuses on linking the terrorists to Afghanistan which places the country in a negative light.

How the media misrepresents Afghanistan is in drawing broad connections to particular events done by groups of people, organizations, and even a single individual i.e. Osama bin Laden. When these events occur, the stigma against the people of Afghanistan — who are primarily Islamic people — translates to their portrayal in the media as savages, extremists, bigots and/or radicals.

When you limit Afghanistan to just these reductive terms and connotations, it creates a constant theme within the news medium of categorizing Muslims as belligerently harmful people.

Truth vs. Stigma

Although there are good arguments and truth in fearing the Taliban in Afghanistan, how the media misrepresents Afghanistan places any progress against these threats as overlooked. For instance, Peter Bergen stated in the Foreign Policy news article, “the Taliban are removed from power,” while numerous other news sites would focus on the Taliban’s continued threat instead.

Another focus of the media is the “Muslim” restriction of women from having jobs and giving daughters an education; however, there are now more women from Afghanistan aiding in the Afghan parliament than in the U.S. Congress. Also, there’s been progress in child education —  there are now eight million students’ in school, and more than 33 percent are girls.

Afghanistan’s Efforts at Nationwide Improvement

Even though Afghanistan has had a history of human trafficking, the U.S. Department of State from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees addresses that the government of Afghanistan has made improvements to end this practice.

The efforts consist of passing a new law that prohibits any trafficking and smuggling in January 2017. Furthermore, the government has managed to indict and punish criminals of this injustice while also placing trafficking victims in temporary housing in Kabul.

Pushing the socioeconomic progress forward also led the government to establish 15 child protection units (CPUs), creations which stopped 315 boys and three girls from becoming victims of police recruitment. Unfortunately, the government did not meet the requirements, though, in several categories: collusion, victim protection and progression in strategic planning for services provided.

How the Media Misrepresents Afghanistan

The media is supposed to be a direct connection from the government to the general public and vice versa; however, Mirza Mesic, a professor of Islamic History at the Zagreb, states that this medium of communication uses alternatives to basic informative practices such as skewing and then defending such alternative information.

With all the attention and negative input the media has done about Afghanistan, it is easy to say that drama sells stories, but how often is that balanced with the progression the country is making?

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

Unemployment in AfghanistanAs coalition forces have withdrawn from the country, unemployment in Afghanistan has increased dramatically, hitting 40 percent in 2015 according to the United Nations Development Programme. Afghanistan has not seen unemployment rates this high since 2005.

Afghans have been caught in a vise of lost employment from decreased U.S. military expenditures in the country and a decrease in foreign aid expenditures. The withdrawal of security forces is also linked to increased violence in the country, leading to additional economic instability.

Though President Obama gave the order to slow the withdrawal of non-combat troops from the country in July, the drawdown continues. The new plan involves keeping 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into 2017, down from the current number of 10,000.

This news comes at a time when many Afghans rely on employment in service industries surrounding the foreign military presence in Afghanistan which stems back nearly 15 years.

Political instability and security concerns amid rising violence have also negatively impacted economic growth in the country. According to a report by the World Bank, economic growth in Afghanistan made only a modest gain from 1.3 percent in 2014 to 1.5 percent in 2015.

The sluggish economic growth and pronounced unemployment in Afghanistan has led to a spike in poverty as the rate increased from 35.8 percent in 2011-12 to 39.1 percent in 2013-14.

Faced with unemployment, poverty and violence, many young people in Afghanistan have made the choice to flee the country. Seeking a better life in Europe and the U.S., the young workers have joined the stream of refugees fleeing conditions in the Middle East.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Afghans made up about 20 percent of the over 1 million refugees arriving in Europe in 2015. Many of those leaving are young adults who are desperately needed to help rebuild the war-torn country. Efforts by the Afghan government to stem the exodus have not found success.

Speaking about the unemployment crisis, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham said, “Everybody anticipated that this was going to be a problem because of the drop-off in the economic opportunity after the bulk of international forces were transiting out. Unfortunately, the government effort to reorganize itself to deal with the economy didn’t materialize as they had hoped.”

Continued unemployment in Afghanistan will bolster instability as additional people flee the country or become susceptible to extremism. It remains to be seen if the country will descend into the same failed-state status it held prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan
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. Discussed below are facts that may come as a surprise about those living in poverty in Afghanistan.

 

Top 5 Facts about Poverty in Afghanistan

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Center for Strategic and International Studies