New Report Shows Hope, Dire Conditions in Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Refugee Agency released a report today assessing the status of economic and social rights in Afghanistan. The second of its kind, the report consolidates interviews with over 11,000 people, many of whom are former refugees, internally displaced persons, members of “vulnerable groups,” and residents in remote rural areas.

Among the key findings were high incidents of poverty, housing problems, and an inability to access the formal justice system. More than 62 percent of all interviewees reported having no stable income, and over 64 percent reported that their household is in debt. Thirty-seven percent said that at least one of their children under 15 was working. Of those with children working, nearly half reported that most or all of their children work.

Among women, maternal health care is scarce. Only 21.5 percent of interviewees said that a midwife or trained birth attendant was present during their last delivery. Some 46 percent of interviewees had a relative or friend present, 14 percent had nobody present, and 4.5 percent had a local untrained midwife present. According to the report, an estimated 78 percent of maternal deaths could be prevented by increasing the presence and availability of trained birth assistants and midwives.

The report also finds that girls in Afghanistan are severely disadvantaged. Despite overwhelming attitudes and acknowledgement that schools are available, just over two-thirds of respondents reported sending their children to school. Girl children are much more likely to be kept home than boys. Some 22.5 percent reported that their girls never go to school, which is almost double the rate of boys who do not attend school. Nearly three-quarters of interviewees reported sending boys to school regularly, while less than two-thirds of parents sent girls to school regularly. Child marriage also continues to be a problem. About 12 percent of interviewees responded their children were married before the age 16. Of those married young, 84.7 percent are girls.

Perhaps most surprisingly, 78.8 percent of interviewees reported feeling positive about the future despite the present conditions. Respondents said that job opportunities, safe drinking water, and improvement of health facilities were their main priorities.

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