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Beyond the War: Poverty in Afghanistan

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Posted on 5/20/2013

The war in Afghanistan — preceded by decades of conflict — has had a profound impact on many families. Insurgent attacks, complex international governance and enduring poverty have made life in Afghanistan particularly challenging for millions of children. Many families who fled the country in earlier years have gradually returned to Afghanistan, but are greeted with poor infrastructure, including a lack of health-care facilities, substandard sanitation and not enough clean water.

Complex Problems

Data from the World Bank suggests that 36 percent of Afghans live in poverty — more than 9 million people — but that figure may be higher because of a lack of representative data from Afghan households. Families at risk of falling below poverty guidelines face an uncertain future, as many factors could affect their ability to provide for their children.

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provinces in the northeast have been hit particularly hard by the effects of the war. Poverty rates range between 55 and 75 percent in areas such as Badakhshan, Kunar, Balkh and Paktika, whereas in southeastern provinces like Helmand and Farah, the situation is less severe.

Good sanitation and clean water are in short supply in many parts of Afghanistan. Less than half the population has access to clean drinking water, and just 37 percent use healthy sanitation facilities. As a result, Afghanistan has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the world, with approximately 199 deaths per 1,000 live births, 134 of which happen during the first year after birth.

Turning Things Around

Through the years, the conflict in Afghanistan has displaced thousands of people. Although the country remains in transition, the last decade has seen a steady stream of returnees, who likely find their former home unrecognizable after three decades of war. For some returning Afghans like Malik Nader, a father of eight who fled his homeland when the former Soviet Union invaded during the 1980s, the difficulties were tremendous. However, thanks to the support of ChildFund and our local partners, Nader and his children face a brighter future.

In 2012, ChildFund built seven solar-powered water collection systems in the village of Sheikh Mesri as part of the RESTART program, a collection of services designed to help meet the needs of the community's youngest children for education, nutrition, water and sanitation.

To help ChildFund continue to improve the lives of Afghan children and their families, please consider making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs fund.