Multiple suicide attacks in Gardez and Khost. July most bloody month ever for US forces in Afghanistan. More British troops to be deployed. Karzai’s empty chair at Tolo TV’s presidential candidates’ debate… Reporting about Afghanistan mainly focuses on security issues and elections currently. Very often, our own countries’ domestic politics overshadow the other reality, life of Afghans themselves.
Here are a couple of news agency items that did not make it into the world media but which still can be found on list servers dealing with Afghanistan.
On 22 July, Reuters quoted a joint survey by the Afghan government, UNICEF and AREU that 1.2 million Afghan children are the main breadwinners for their families and many more supplement family incomes. The jobs reach from washing cars, working in shops and restaurants to heavy manual labour in workshops and brick factories. One fourth of the child labourers are girls who usually work as housekeepers. 6.5 million Afghan children are deprived of education.
Already in February, the UN-related news agency IRIN had reported about child labourers at the Afghan-Pakistani border. It told the story of 10 year old Sahib Jan who every day from 7am to 4pm moves goods – among them 20 kg sack of flour – with a wheelbarrow across border at the Khyber Pass to earn 200-300 Afghani a day, less than 6 US dollar. He is one of 1,000 to 1,600 kids doing similar jobs in Torkham, aged between 8 and 17. According to aid workers, most of them are exposed to physical, psychological and sexual violence, do not attend school and have no access to health care.
On 8 April, the Russian agency Interfax reported that 25 Afghans were freed from forced labour in a mill in Karaganda (Kazakhstan).
On 24 February, the Afghan news agency Quqnoos reported data provided by UNFPA that Afghanistan has the highest maternity mortality in Asia and the second highest all over the world. 1,600 women die during labour every year. If parents spaced pregnancies, this could be decreased by 25 per cent. An average Afghan mother gives birth to eight to nine children without considering spacing.
On 10 February, EurasiaNet quoted from a UN Security Council report that every year 40,000 Afghans die from hunger and poverty – 25 times more than from violence. The number of Afghans who cannot meet their minimum dietary means rose from 30 to 35 per cent between 2005 and 2008.
Already on 29 December 2008, the daily Gulf News reported about a ‘public health emergency’ in Afghanistan. It said that according to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, 1.6 million children and thousands of women are at risk to die in 2009 as a result of the lack of food and medical care. Climate-caused food shortages could put 30 per cent of the population – some 8 million people – ‘at the brink of starvation’. This is also linked to rising food prices. According to the WFP, an average Afghan household had to spend 85 per cent of its income on food, an increase from 56 per cent in 2005.
Additionally, children were vulnerable to diarrhea and acute respiratory infections that account for 41 per cent of all child deaths in Afghanistan as well as to vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, polio and diphtheria, responsible for a further 21 per cent. A survey in 800 households showed that a majority of Afghans, including children, suffer from depression and anxiety and half of the population from post-traumatic stress-disorder. Life expectancy was 42 years on average, according to the WHO.
Another massive problem is unemployment. Although there is no official definition of this phenomenon by the Afghan government, usually a rate of 40 per cent unemployment is given for the country. Quqnoos agency reported on 22 March that hundreds of Herat University’s graduates were jeopardized by a lack of jobs and made the government responsible for this. According to the agency, provincial officials had ‘no plans on the table’ to deal with this issue. The students ‘have to search for jobs themselves’, one was quoted.
From Berlin with Love, Thomas
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020