BY: Joan Kim
To say that families and businesses have been negatively impacted due to COVID-19 would be an understatement. Many of us have been agitated by all the inconveniences in our personal lives because of the pandemic. Yet, with just a bit of research, we can see how privileged it is to be living in a country that has resources for proper healthcare and supplies. Living in a country such as Afghanistan that is known to be one of the poorest countries in the world are at great risk, especially in times such as now. Creating awareness towards third-world countries such as Afghanistan could be saving lives.
Living in such a digital era where social media is so prevalent, we are able to see the power that social media platforms hold. During the recent movements, such as Black Lives Matter, raising awareness was shown to be one of the best ways to accomplish changes. As mentioned before, Afghanistan is a country located in Central Asia that is mostly known for the recent war that took place in 2001. But, what people don’t talk about is the effects this war left on the country. Tadaminchi Yamamoto, a UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said, “Almost no civilians in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence”. In the span of just over 10 years, the war has reported over 100,000 civilian casualties in 2019. And just in the year 2019, 3,493 civilians were killed and 6,989 were injured. From the same report, it showed that there was a whole 23% increase in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban. There is no doubt that this ongoing conflict of decades is one of the main causes of poverty in Afghanistan. It is also no secret that Afghanistan is one of the largest beneficiaries of aid from America however, the poverty rates are only growing every year. In order to prevent this number from growing in the future, it is important to recognize the root causes of poverty in Afghanistan.
The infamous group, the Taliban, is not only responsible for the high number of deaths in the country but, is also linked to the growth in poverty rates. Between 2012 and 2017, the Taliban was actively working in Afghanistan and during those years, there was a whole 17 percent increase in poverty. According to the World Bank, finding a political agreement would be crucial in rebuilding Afghanistan’s economy and safety. As mentioned before, the United States aids large amounts of money towards Afghanistan every year, including the United Nations. In the year 2020, the United Nations is arranging $730 million in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. However, in March of 2020, due to President Trump’s weariness with the prolonged Afghanistan war, American officials have reported that they’ll be reducing $1 billion in aid. But on top of that also has threatened to pull out another $1 billion the next year. According to the New York Times, Mr. Ghani, the current President of Afghanistan, said that if the United States was to cut funds, the Afghan army would not be able to last more than half a year. The government has been and is to this day a major cause of poverty in Afghanistan. Although funding towards Afghan is crucial for the lives of many citizens, the unfortunate reality is that a large portion is misused. John Sopko, a Special Inspector-General, once said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that, “There is a lot of corruption, [but] most of what we have identified are just head-smacking stupid programs and really poorly managed and no accountability. Nobody is really held accountable for wasting the money,”. The corrupted government has afflicted Afghanistan and because of this, the underprivileged Afghan citizens are unavoidably hurt. There have been multiple scandals such as the 2010 Kabul Bank scandal and when in 2015, the Ministry of Education was discovered fabricating data to steal international funding. Scandals such as these are the causes of decreased fundings and aids towards Afghanistan. However, other than money being a core solution towards decreasing poverty, it is important to focus on the lack of resources the country holds.
A common trend we see in countries that are under extreme poverty is the lack of resources. Whether it is the absence of education, the agricultural resources for farming, or proper healthcare. More than half of the country is living under the poverty line at 54.5% of the entire population. The main issue with the cases of people living in poverty is their limited access to education. 75.6% of penurious people are illiterate which puts them at a higher unemployment rate. Due to the lack of knowledge and education, when employed it is in the agriculture sector. The international fundings opened up job opportunities in the health and education services, however, this mainly benefited the ones that weren’t living in poverty, to begin with. Nonetheless, these international funds are critical from preventing any growth in poverty rates. For the people living in poverty, they do not have proper access to basic human needs. Such as safe drinking water, electricity, and hygienics. This has not only caused deaths due to malnourishment but has also caused deaths among mothers and newborns. Not having access to proper health care and sanitary hospitals, for every 100,000 births, 460 mothers die and for every 1,000 births, 119 infants die. As a result, Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate and the third-highest infant mortality rate in the world. If statistics like this were more widespread and known to the public, doctors that are willing to save the lives and the lives of future generations in Afghanistan could stop the poverty rates from increasing as well.
There have been so many causes of poverty in Afghan that have been built up from the start of time. Helping this country build up its economy and reducing poverty is not something that can happen overnight. However, this doesn’t mean that this should stop or discourage anyone from donating, volunteering, or at least educating and raising awareness on this topic. In order to reduce poverty in Afghanistan, it starts with investing in civilization and administering any future risks that may increase poor people’s vulnerability.