Poverty has always been the root cause of all evils in people’s lives and has provoked a global unrest. There has always been a link between hunger and global security. Reports indicate that poverty in Afghanistan is an outcome of various consequences, including inattention to poverty and violation of human rights, widespread abuse of authority in the system of government, intense military conflicts and extreme unemployment rate or intense growth of corruption.
As we witnessed, after the fall of Taliban in October 2001, positive transformations started to occur in the country with much direct-fund to the most poor and excluded people living under poverty line by the U.S, its allied forces and other humanitarian organizations. More than three million students and thirty thousand female teachers returned to their classes after the Taliban collapsed. The networks of television and radio began broadcasting cultural programs, like music and movies, which were banned during Taliban rule, including other similar form of arts. This process of lessening restrictions was a growing hope for prosperity of the media sector, good security situation with equal opportunities to grow in peace and sustainable development programs activities in this war-torn country.
However, the new government initiated rebuilding and repairing much of Afghanistan’s institutions and economic structures that had completely collapsed during the Taliban rule. Thus, one of the most important political achievements of the post-Taliban era was the draft and approval of the new constitution in June 2004. In November of the same year, the presidential election was held and Afghan people were cherishing while using their share of political freedom for the first time after decades of persistent war and bloodshed, elected Hamid Karzai as the president of their war-affected country.
At the same time, there appeared dozens of NGO’s working to eradicate poverty and enable the excluded, vulnerable and most marginalized families participate for their rights in the share of political freedom. In fact, the mere defeat and pushing out of Taliban from Afghanistan caused the previously low economic indicators to improve and the people were now outside the lowest possible level of economic political standing.
Bonn Agreement was arranged, promising a new start for Afghanistan with the aim of achieving effective and long-lasting peace. However, many years after the Bonn Agreement, the economical conditions are still challenging considering that for every three Afghans one is living under poverty and is unable to provide for the minimum requirements of life or all those who earn less than $1 per day. Adding that, the rest of the country is living under inadequate conditions as well. Those citizens who are not considered poor are living slightly above the poverty line making them vulnerable to any potential disastrous events.
In fact, all development indicators demonstrate that all these efforts to eradicate or reduce poverty have had little impact on the lives of the nation after more than eleven years of constant involvement.
According to reports, Afghanistan ranks second when it comes to maternal mortality in the world. Only 23% of people have access to potable water. 24% of region’s population above fifteen years of age is literate. The country’s statistical numbers when it comes to development indicators in comparison with neighboring countries is very low. In the year 2009, the maternal mortality number was about 1600 deaths in 100,000 women going through labor. The number is five times more than that of Pakistan and fifty times more than that of Uzbekistan. Although it is not possible to provide exact statistics of unemployment, estimated, 40% of the twenty five million people that reside in Afghanistan are unemployed and 5 million of them are living below the poverty line.
After several years of efforts towards establishing sustainable economic development and billions of dollars in cost and expenditure, the question remains that why has the level of poverty remained so high in Afghanistan? To answer this question one should look at the economic, political, and social factors that explain the current condition of this country.
Who are the poor? Countless numbers of babies who are born in poor parents have grown up as poor. Many became poor due to hard circumstances that dominated Afghanistan in the last decades of war and constant drought. Most of them belong to those families whose breadwinners died, murdered, massacred or became permanently disabled in the fight against Taliban or in civil war. When everything most of the families own is lost in a natural disaster or in a communal violence. When one’s possessions are taken away because one is powerless, voiceless or unable to repay money borrowed to farm a land, to pay for a girl’s dowry, or to pay for curing a killer illness. When one is born with disability and no one is ready to support. When the head of a household suffers from unemployment and can’t earn enough to fulfill the gap. They are the common faces of poverty looming in Afghanistan.
Perhaps, today poverty and hunger kill more Afghans than those of armed conflicts or suicide bombers. The region has the world’s second-highest maternal mortality rate, the third-highest child mortality rate.
Investment means better educated societies, more stable societies and the chance for better economic growth. Escalation of food aid in Afghanistan means reducing the level of death, insecurity and other killer disease and deaths from the freezing weather of winter that gives birth to lack of food services and intolerable starvation. Today the Afghan nation does not need gun, violence and war but rather good education and employment by which they could eradicate poverty, injustice, violence and establish a long-lasting peace.
Fighting to end hunger among the nation worldwide is the first most important step in ensuring the global security and even achieving peace among the nations. Perhaps, there could be no permanent global peace as long as two-thirds of our human families are daily under the dominance of world’s worst killer “Hunger” and famine. In fact, hunger and insecurity are the worst threats to peace and security. Unless the nation has better job opportunities, good education, proper distribution of political power, unity and injustice, security, peace and sustainability won’t take permanent root.
After all, to combat poverty and violence, the most important factors to achieve are reforms and reconstruction of social, political and economic infrastructures, raising public consciousness and awareness and ensuring legal implementation of equal rights with justice in all affairs of state.
The article was published in the Daily Afghanistan Express on January 14, 2013.