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Special Feature: Poverty and Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

There are different facts and figures about poverty in Afghanistan. The Central Statistics Department and an International NGO reported a survey two years ago. As per the survey, that studied the life expectancy rates in Afghanistan, the number of people under poverty line had increased up to sixteen million people.

Facts and Figures About Poverty in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is among the poorest countries in the world. In Afghanistan, poverty is widespread in rural and urban areas. However, the estimate is that poverty in Afghanistan has main concentration in rural areas. Estimates also show that four out of five poor people live in rural areas. The regions in Afghanistan where almost half of the inhabitants are poor are the east, northeast, and west-central regions. According to the Afghan government’s estimates, 42 per cent of the Afghanistan’s total population lives below the poverty line. Also, 20 percent of people live just above the poverty line. And they are highly vulnerable to fall into poverty.

Poverty and food insecurity in Afghanistan

The crisis triggered by the security and political transition have negatively affected Afghan households. The decline in aid and growth damaged jobs. And, the escalation of conflict further intensified the vulnerability of Afghan people.
The poverty challenge has emerged in all its strength during the transition period. Absolute poverty is increasing, with about 39 percent of Afghans now poor. There are not enough jobs to meet the needs of a fast-growing labor force and provide livelihoods to illiterate and unskilled Afghans.
Moreover, the diffusion and intensification of conflict help perpetuate poverty down to future generations as children miss school and more families flee their homes.

Deep and Widening Inequalities

The economic and security crisis has accentuated deep and widening inequalities between those who have the means to cope with shocks and those who must give up vital assets to stay alive.
Urban Afghans are safer and have better access to services and economic opportunities than those living in rural areas. Inequalities also persist between Afghan men and women, who increasingly find it difficult to access education and health services. Left unattended, poverty and inequality can further undermine social cohesion and jeopardize progress attained in the past 15 years.

Poverty and Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

GDP growth slowed down from 1.3 percent in 2014 to 0.8 percent in 2015, and marginally improved to 1.2 percent in 2016. However, while the economy is expected to eventually rebound, growth will likely remain below the 8 percent required to fully employ Afghanistan’s growing labor force. Meanwhile, conflict and fragility will likely continue constraining Afghanistan’s development and progress toward reducing poverty.

Poverty is a State of Insufficiency

Poverty is a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials to enjoy a minimum standard of life and well-being that’s considered acceptable in society. Condition where people’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are not being met.
Poverty is a social problem with the fact that most of the people have limited economic resources and their standard of living is low. The people have been deprived of modern facilities in education, health, communication and good food. It is a social problem because they have failed to increase their income resource.

Reasons behind Poverty in Afghanistan

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), “More than 6.7 million Afghans have been affected by disasters and extreme weather events such as drought, earthquakes, disease epidemics, sandstorms, and harsh winters” since 1998. The poverty status update for Afghanistan reports:
“In 2007-08, 36 percent of the population in Afghanistan was poor, that is more than one in every three Afghan persons was living on levels of expenditure insufficient to satisfy basic food and non-food needs. Four years later, in 2011-12, the poverty rate in Afghanistan remained substantially unchanged despite massive increase in international spending on military and civilian assistance, and overall strong economic growth and labor market performance. . .”
Poverty is a dilemma that has affected the lives of many Afghans in recent years. Beside war and conflicts, ethnic bigotry, narcotics, illiteracy rate and violation of law are considered main reasons of poverty in Afghanistan.

Un-Utilized Natural Resources

One of the main reasons of Poverty in Afghanistan is that the natural resources of this country are not yet utilized. Afghanistan is considered one of richest countries in terms of mines and natural resources but most of these Mines are not explored and utilized.
Natural gas, coal mines, iron, oil, copper, uranium, salt, corm, gold, sulfur, chromite, Ammonium, chrome, nickel, silver lazuli, ruby, uranium graphite.
Hajigak Mine has the largest iron oxide deposit in Afghanistan, and is located near the Hajigak Pass, which lies between Bamiyan and Wardak provinces. It has the biggest untapped iron ore deposits of Asia. But still Afghanistan has not yet utilized it.

Lack of Planning by Government

Another main reason of poverty in Afghanistan is mismanagement by government and lack of proper strategy to end poverty. The past administrations had not taken initial steps to end poverty in Afghanistan.
The current Ghani administration also has the same problem of not making clear strategies and planes to boost the economy of rural areas that almost seventy percent of the total population lives in.

Unemployment and Conflicts

Unemployment is the main reason of poverty in the country especially in remote areas. The presence of four million jobless young people is a solid prove to this harsh reality.
On the other hand, the three decades war and conflict in Afghanistan destroyed the Infrastructure and misplaced more than hundred thousand people and effected the daily lives of Afghans in the country.
Natural disasters
Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, vegetable disease, rush of locusts on farms for a country like Afghanistan that has no preventive strategies for such kind of disasters can increase poverty and demolish food sources. People will face poverty certainly.

Vulnerability of Water Resources

The Afghan government identified seven sectors that are particularly vulnerable: “Water resources is the most vulnerable sector followed by forestry and rangeland, agriculture, health, biodiversity, energy and waste.”
Cycles of Droughts
In the same document, it cites an EU report according to which, in general, “regular cycles of around 15 years are observed, during which one would expect 2-3 years of drought conditions. In recent years, however, there has been a marked tendency for this drought cycle to occur more frequently than the model predicts, and since 1960, the country has experienced drought in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1970-72 and 1998-2006.”
“The period from 1998 to 2005/6,” the Afghan report further states, “marked the longest and most severe drought in Afghanistan’s known climatic history” but the country “currently [is] in the grips of the most severe drought in living memory” again.

Poverty and Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

Desertification and Droughts

According to a 2007 environment assessment by the Asian Development Bank, effects of desertification and drought were particularly observable in the country’s arid north, west and south. This includes the Harirud valley in the western Herat province, the most fertile one in Central Asia, as Daud Saba, Afghanistan’s mining minister and a former governor of that province, told AAN. Similarly, Orlove has already found that climate change will be a cause for internal mass migration in the Central Asian Ferghana valley and may aggravate social tensions within the densely populated area.
In 2011, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that an estimated three million people have been affected by severe drought in that year throughout 14 provinces of Afghanistan. In 2015, the warmest year ever recorded worldwide, the droughts in Afghanistan remained on the same level as in the previous years, according to UNEP.

Illiteracy Rate

Another reason of poverty is Illiteracy rate. The presence of almost 65% uneducated people in the remote areas is also can play a considerable role to increase the poverty line. Currently, four million children don’t have access to school and more than one million are child labor and involved in difficult jobs.

Mismanagement of Population

Lack of family planning and mismanagement of population within the families is another reason of poverty in Afghanistan.
Increment of new born children in Afghan families that have no access to education, health, food and other basic needs creates problem for them.
This statistic given above was published two years before; therefore, it is likely that the figures have increased much more.


Poverty in Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

Climate Change and Food Insecurity

Climate change is already having a severe impact on Afghans’ daily lives – but this challenge is often over-shadowed by what seem to be more-urgent problems: war and the economic crisis
“Afghanistan is ranked among the most vulnerable countries in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change. . . As a result of climate change, it is anticipated that the incidence of extreme weather events, including heat waves, floods, and droughts will likely increase. . . Between 1990 and 2000, Afghanistan lost an average of 29,400 hectares of forest per year, at an average annual deforestation rate of 2.25 per cent, which further increased to 2.92% per annum between 2000 to 2005. . . With these climatic changes the foundation of the country’s economy, stability, and food security is under threat.”


The facts and figures above give a very tragic state of affairs. There are many fronts that have to be dealt with if the government and responsibilities authorities are really interested in tackling the issues of poverty and food insecurity. As a matter of fact, government requires to develop a comprehensive strategy so as to defeat this curse since it has more victims than the prevailing insecurity. Most of the resources and efforts have been utilized to counter insecurity in the country without any considerable change in the security situation. Therefore, the relevant authorities must divert more attention to issue of governance, particularly, alarming poverty and food insecurity.

Moreover, it has to be understood that Afghanistan would require the support of neighboring and regional countries so as to develop its economic infrastructure. Doing so would greatly help it develop a resilient strategy against poverty and food insecurity.
(Sahar News)

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