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Afghanistan social development still going backwards

posted by Stuart Neatby Geography: Central Asia

February 12, 2008

Afghanistan social development still going backwards

Now, I usually have some quibbles with these kind of reports. The Human Development Index is a sketch only, a calculation of a country's GDP per capita, its gross enrollment rate, literacy rates, and life expectancy at birth. There's a lot left out of the "development" picture by this index, and far too often, the index is used by the richest nations on earth to identify the oft-scapegoated "failed states" nations which tend to fall at the bottom of this scale.

That said, you have to sit back in amazement when a country as poor as Afghanistan can STILL see its ranking on the HDI fall during the exact period in which Canadian, US, and European aid disbursements are at their highest point.

Interestingly, the HDI report finds that Afghanistan has experienced significant economic growth in recent years (no doubt fuelled at least in part by the opium trade) though, as with many other regions throughout the global south, this growth effectively serves to mask the widening of economic inequality.

Although Afghanistan has maintained double-digit economic growth over the past several years, it has failed to reduce extreme and prevalent poverty and hunger significantly, the report says.

Any truly free media, one that wishes to gives its readers an accurate picture of the true conditions in this country, would repeat these statistics ad nauseum:

  • 6.6 million Afghans (or more than a fifth of the population) do not meet their minimum food requirements each day
  • Almost half of the children in Afghanistan are underweight
  • More than 70% of Afghan's citizens do not have access to clean drinking water
  • Despite the much-heralded progress in reducing child and maternal mortality, 1,600 women die per 100,000 births. This is still one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

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