Although several social advances have been made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, living conditions for its residents are still among the worst in the world. More than half the population lives in poverty.
Significantly fewer children are now dying from treatable illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, but Afghanistan is still one of the countries in Asia with the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Afghanistan, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Malnutrition is a difficult problem. Because about half of Afghans do not have access to clean water and two out of three lack a proper toilet, many of the intestinal parasites and dysentery are plagued. Hepatitis B, TBC and malaria reap many sacrifices, as well as typhoid and cholera. After decades of war and lack of health care resources, a majority of the population is estimated to suffer from stress and mental ill health.
In Kabul, the population is struggling against a rapidly falling groundwater level due to increased population pressure, waste of water and unusually little rain and snow in recent times. Many are forced to drill new deeper wells. Only one in five households are connected to the general water system, and the water is often contaminated.
Access to modern healthcare has long been largely limited to Kabul, but in recent years many hospitals and clinics have also been built in the provinces, often in military direction. However, some provincial hospitals or clinics have such deficiencies that the locals avoid going there and prefer to spend time-consuming, risky and expensive trips to larger cities to seek care. And contrary to the stipulations that care should be free of charge, it is stated that patients must pay for examinations and medicines.
The staff is very unevenly distributed across the country. In more densely populated areas and cities, there are significantly more doctors and nurses in proportion to the population than in sparsely populated areas. On average, the public health service in Afghanistan has a smaller staffing force than is required by the World Health Organization to provide basic healthcare.
Some of the hospitals planned and funded by the United States have been criticized by US audit authorities for becoming far too large and technologically advanced for local needs. There are concerns that Afghans should not be able to afford to run them on their own, when aid staff and financial aid have declined.
The situation of women
Afghan society is strongly male dominated, which does not mean that men decide everything. In households, women usually have a great deal of influence and responsibility, and especially in rural areas, men and women share relatively equal work, albeit with different tasks.
The Afghan culture is strongly honored, especially among the Pashtuns. The concept of honor includes the idea that female sexuality has such a devastating force that societal norms can be threatened if women’s freedom of movement is not restricted. Ideally, the woman should stay in the home or, if she has to go out, hide her entire body under a wide veil, usually a so-called burka which also covers her face. The basic idea in this is that the woman – the mother – symbolizes the honor of the family and society and must not be disgraced.
Ever since the 1910s, Afghanistan has had political leaders and written regulations that guaranteed gender equality as well as women’s right to education and work, but the traditions have been difficult to break. The revolt against the communists, which came to power in 1978, was primarily a reaction to the regime’s tangible attempts to modernize the country by trying to get women out of the labor market, banning child marriage and forced marriage, building day care – measures that were perceived as a threat to family cohesion. The clock was turned back long before the Taliban’s rule 1996–2001.
Several improvements in women’s conditions were implemented after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but a large number of acts of violence against women are still reported. One reason is a social culture where impunity prevails for abuse of women. In 2009, a law was passed that banned a wide range of violent crimes and other common abuses against women and girls, but according to Amnesty International, the law is not always applied by the courts.
The family is the hub around which the lives of Afghans revolve. The family is the personal security, the custodian of property, the mediator of customs and traditions. Marriage ties are preferably tied up in the family.
“Family” is a much broader concept than with us. Several generations of nuclear families can live together in a walled area. In the courtyard between the buildings, joint activities and leisure activities take place.
Polygamy is allowed but relatively uncommon. Traditionally, the husband’s family is required to pay so much in bridal purchases that many men cannot afford to get married until well into the years. Then the bride can be several decades younger, which in reality usually makes her a widow at quite young years. Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has received so disproportionately many war graves that in the 1960s, it was almost extinct the custom to remarry a widow with a close relative of the dead husband, perhaps his brother, has become common again.
Formally, a daughter has the right to inherit half as much as a brother, a woman a third as much as her son. In practice, Afghan women hardly inherit anything, with the motivation that men still make sure they do well.
Homosexuality is prohibited by law. The social acceptance of sexual minorities is small. However, a tradition with long historical roots is bacha bazi, powerful men’s sexual exploitation of young boys. This form of pedophilia has been acknowledged even in recent decades and only half-hearted attempts have been made to stop it.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 48 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 63.0 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 43.4 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 10.3 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 57 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 28 percent (2018)
Parliamentary elections with major problems
Parliamentary elections are under threat from the Taliban. The result goes out in time after complaints of cheating. A quarter of the votes are void.
Corruption is increasing sharply
A report shows that corruption in Afghanistan has doubled since 2007.
The U.S. general gets fired
General McChrystal is fired after condescending comments about President Obama and his co-workers in a US television interview. He is succeeded by David Petraeus.
Karzai criticizes the outside world
President Karzai says foreign election observers were guilty of cheating in the 2009 presidential election. He accuses the UN and the EU of trying to set up a “puppet regime” in Kabul.
Five-year plan for Afghan responsibility
At an international conference in London, the goal is for the Afghans to be able to take military responsibility for their country within five years.