Opioid Trade in AfghanistanAfghanistan’s opioid trade, the largest in the world, has been thriving under the new Taliban regime. Driven by a desire for economic and political stability, the Taliban’s actions around the opioid trade have serious implications for Afghanistan’s citizens who were plunged into poverty following the group’s takeover in 2021.

The Taliban’s Ban on Drugs

Once processed, opium poppies from Afghanistan sell as opium, morphine and a range of grades of heroin in every region of the world, with the exception of Latin America. The production and sale of drugs constitute a significant portion of the country’s GDP each year.

When the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan in August 2021, it vowed to end the production and trade of drugs in the country. The group, however, faced a production system on an upward trend. In 2020, Afghanistan saw a 37% increase in the area of land used to grow opium poppies compared to the year before. In that same year, Afghanistan produced 85% of the opium consumed across the world.

The History of the Opioid Trade in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been producing opium poppies in large numbers since the mid-1950s. Fraught with political and economic inconsistency for decades, the history of efforts to reduce the opioid trade in Afghanistan is complex. In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The war that followed created economic devastation that left many in Afghanistan with no reliable source of income aside from trading narcotics. The Taliban, established in 1994, made significant steps towards banning the trade, halving the land used for growing poppies in the regions of Afghanistan it controlled at the time.

When the Taliban gained power in Afghanistan in 1996, however, it had already relaxed its approach to the drug trade. Instead of clamping down on production, the Taliban began to tax opioid farms and labs and even sought to expand the trade by providing farmers with official government licenses to grow opium poppies. The group declared an outright ban on poppy cultivation in 1999, but by September 2001, it had reversed this decision, and the practice was thriving again.

Under the Afghan government from 2002 to 2021, following U.S. intervention in 2001, drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan soared. International aid funded the majority of counter-narcotic efforts over these two decades. The United States spent more than $8 billion over a 15-year period in attempts to reduce the trade of opioids in Afghanistan.

The Opioid Trade in the New Taliban Regime

In April 2022, the Taliban issued a decree prohibiting all poppy cultivation and narcotics trade, representing a new wave of counter-narcotic efforts in Afghanistan. However, the timing alone of this decree caused many to question the motives of the Taliban, as it came shortly after the largest annual harvest of opium poppies. High-ranking Taliban officials claim that drug production and trafficking are over, but the evidence suggests that the trade is still thriving and may have increased since the regime change.

The gap between the Taliban’s stated intention to rid Afghanistan of drugs and its lack of action is likely due to the fact that it is not currently in its interests, economically or tactically, to crack down on the opioid trade in Afghanistan. Since its formation in 1994, estimates suggest that the opioid trade has accounted for more than half of the Taliban’s revenues, according to Colin Mathers. The Taliban have for many years collected a tax on all opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, all laboratory-based processing of opioids and all trading of these drugs. From 2018 to 2019 alone, the Taliban received more than $400 million from narcotics.

The Economic Impact

To survive as a regime, the Taliban need enough income to be able to keep factions, soldiers and civilians on its side. In the Taliban’s first year in power, Afghanistan’s GDP dropped from $20.15 billion to $14.79 billion due to economic sanctions and the removal of foreign aid. This marked the country’s lowest GDP since the 2008 global financial crisis.

With the country deprived of billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and bilateral aid, reports suggest that the income from opium poppies is more critical than ever to both the security of the Taliban and the stability of the country, according to Brookings. In 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that since the regime change, the number of Afghans living in poverty had doubled to nearly 34 million, representing 85% of the country’s population. The removal of the opioid trade would further cripple the Afghan economy and hundreds of thousands of citizens would fall into extreme poverty, creating a serious risk of domestic unrest.

The Future of the Opioid Trade in Afghanistan

For these reasons, the reward remains higher than the risk for those involved in the opioid trade in Afghanistan, which encourages its continuation and expansion, according to UNODC. Forecasts suggest that there is no end in sight for global sanctions and the Afghan economy seems unlikely to grow significantly in the short term. Therefore, the tactical and financial incentives remain for the Taliban to support this industry and Afghans have few viable alternatives to growing opium poppies, according to VOA News.

Nonprofit organizations like Afghanaid have been working closely with those crippled financially by the Taliban takeover. Since August 2021, Afghanaid has provided around 1.8 million men, women and children with emergency aid. The NGO runs schemes across impoverished areas of Afghanistan that could be vital in creating reliable alternative sources of income for those who may otherwise rely on opium poppy cultivation.

For example, Afghanaid supports farmers and village communities in the Badakhshan Province to replant and irrigate their forests. This scheme has led to the employment of members of more than 130 households across the region. And as a result, some families have been able to send their children to school. Schemes such as this support the development of reliable alternative sources of income for impoverished families in Afghanistan. The goal is to minimize or end the country’s reliance on the opioid trade.

Looking Ahead

The opioid trade in Afghanistan is thriving in the current financial crisis, as the trade provides stability for both impoverished citizens and the new Taliban regime. One of the ways to end the opioid trade involves providing viable alternative sources of income for those that rely on the consistency of producing and selling opioid products. In this way, NGOs like Afghanaid could be central in reducing the growth of a trade that has negative impacts worldwide.

– Polly Walton
Photo: Pixabay

New Initiative to Combat Poverty in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster. Immediately after the United States’ exit from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban assumed full power, seizing the nation’s capital, Kabul. Just months later, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that Afghanistan’s $20 billion economy could shrink by 20%, plunging the nation further into poverty. However, the international community is not turning a blind eye. Instead, UNDP has launched a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan.


In October 2021, UNDP launched the Area-based Approach for Development Emergency Initiatives, also known as ABADEI. ABADEI is a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan and is a part of a broad effort to “operationalize a basic human needs approach within the complex and fast-evolving context of Afghanistan.” UNDP explains the ABADEI strategy best, stating that ABADEI “provides an articulation of investments in basic services, livelihoods and community resilience that complement humanitarian efforts by helping households, communities and the private sector cope with the adverse effects of the crisis.”

Specifically, ABDEI has the backing of a Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan. UNDP created this special trust fund in October 2021 to provide cash assistance to Afghans in dire need, independent of a third party. Germany was the first country to financially commit to the trust fund, pledging nearly $60 million. The trust fund has since grown to more than $170 million in December 2021.

ABADEI, then, is the strategy that directs the flow of the money. Under the ABADEI initiative, program coordinators will implant funds into the community in four main ways.

4 Main Funding Channels

  1. Allotting grants to microbusinesses. A 2019 OECD report on private sector development and entrepreneurship in Afghanistan estimates that entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for nearly 99% of businesses in the country. The report also states that “with foreign assistance declining and the country still struggling to attract private investment from abroad, Afghan entrepreneurs and SMEs will have to be the engines for much of the needed development.” This first goal particularly seeks to assist women-owned businesses as women face disproportionate impacts of poverty during times of crisis. Under ABADEI, program coordinators will distribute cash in local currency and assess needs with the help of local community leaders. The U.N. hopes that the direct injection of cash will help keep local economies from collapsing.
  2. Cash-for-work projects. The second goal of the initiative is to provide “short-term income to the unemployed.” USAID data from November 2021 indicates that nearly 40% of Afghans endure poverty. In 2020, before the Taliban took over, unemployment stood at slightly less than 12%. Although there is no official number for the rising unemployment rate, reports indicate that people are resorting to selling their own possessions to survive.
  3. Financial support to at-risk populations. The director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Qu Dongyu, states that women, young children and the elderly are at risk of starvation during the winter in Afghanistan. To mitigate these impacts, ABADEI seeks to provide a “temporary basic income” to the at risk-populations of Afghanistan.
  4. Strengthening natural disaster resilience. Afghanistan is prone to natural disasters including flooding, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. ABADEI will help Afghanistan mitigate such disasters by funding the “rehabilitation of canals” and other “flood protection” strategies to safeguard farming land from the destruction of floods. By preemptively protecting farmland, ABADEI aims to reduce the risk of increasing food insecurity in the nation.

Looking Ahead

Achim Steiner, a UNDP administrator, said at a press conference that “ABADEI is a concrete contribution to the efforts of the United Nations to protect the hard-won development gains achieved over the past 20 years and prevent further deterioration of Afghanistan’s fragile local economy.” Though the future of Afghanistan is unclear and the country faces numerous challenges, ABADEI stands as a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan, marking an integral first step in the international community’s efforts to safeguard the well-being of Afghans after the Taliban takeover.

– Richard Vieira
Photo: Flickr

poverty in afghanistan
One can consider any form of foreign aid positive at face value, but Afghanistan could benefit from greater investment in private organizations due to its specific needs. According to a U.S. agency report on Afghanistan, political strings result in the Afghani government’s focus on the goals of its foreign investors rather than the needs of its citizens, accompanying aid from countries like the U.S. Poverty in Afghanistan requires attention unhindered by political expectations.

US Foreign Aid Policy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in March 2020 that the U.S. would be cutting $1 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan, which became a foreign policy initiative following a major U.S. military presence in the country. The U.S. foreign aid is allocated to a variety of purposes, some of which attempt to address the widespread poverty that still impacts 54.5% of Afghans. Despite these efforts, poverty remains a large concern. For example, the number of Afghans without basic food and housing increased from 6.5 to 9.4 million between 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at American University with expertise in foreign aid and Central and Southeast Asia, asserts that different types of foreign aid are better suited to target specific goals. Darden noted that U.S. foreign aid in Afghanistan is largely concerned with developing infrastructure tied to the needs of the foreign parties in this country, such as Kabul International Airport. Additionally, while the U.S. aid package may set aside some portion of the money with the intention of addressing poverty in Afghanistan, the larger goals are often political in nature.

Non-Governmental Organizations’ Contribution

Private organizations could focus their resources on areas that foreign government aid often ignores. “I think that, in terms of overall strategies for Afghanistan, getting more resources to outlying regions, and having more NGO and local NGO presence in outlying regions is something that should be a goal of a sustainable development strategy for Afghanistan, rather than continuing to over-concentrate resources and efforts in the Kabul area,” said Darden. The U.S. aid focusing on the Kabul area for accessibility and the ability to address political goals arguably takes away attention from less centralized regions. A larger NGO presence in the country could mean an established, long-term effort to target the humanitarian needs of Afghans and reduce poverty in Afghanistan.

Afghan Women’s Network

One of the most prominent independent groups acting in Afghanistan is the Afghan Women’s Network. It began with inspiration from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This organization serves as an umbrella for a variety of humanitarian efforts in the country. It has direct points of contact in several major regions throughout the country and provides support to other organizations in the remaining regions. With 3,500 members and 125 women’s groups under its leadership, the Afghan Women’s Network has the ability and resources to provide immediate and specialized support to Afghans.

The political struggles of Afghanistan exist in tandem with the struggles of Afghani citizens. Multiple NGOs with unique goals ranging from gender equality to infant mortality to education could target the diverse needs of the Afghani population more directly. By supplying aid without political expectations and restrictions, NGOs could work to downsize poverty in Afghanistan.

Riya Kohli
Photo: Pixabay

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 are 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