UN Reports that Afghanistan Could Easily Slip Back Into Chaos

The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) first ever Afghanistan Human Development Report found that while the country has made progress since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan could easily fall back into chaos. According to the UNDP, the basic human needs of the Afghan people, including access to jobs, health, education, dignity, income, and opportunities for participation must be met or else the country will once again collapse into an “insecure state, a threat to its own people as well as to the international community.”

According to the UNDP, “years of discrimination and poverty have relegated Afghan women to some of the worst social indicators in the world,” citing poverty, violence, inadequate health care, exclusion from public life, rape, illiteracy and forced marriage. The Gender Development Index places Afghanistan above only two countries: Niger and Burkina Faso.

The report also found that reconstruction projects sponsored by the US military, known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), are inadequate and dangerous, citing that they blur the lines between civilians and soldiers, making aid workers targets for militants, reports the Associated Press. Afghanistan ranked 173 out of 178 countries in the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index. The average life expectancy for Afghans is only 44.5 years, 20 years lower than the life expectancy for people in neighboring countries.

In addition, recent reports from on the ground reflect that Afghanistan’s severe winter has claimed the lives of hundreds of people in villages in the country. The snow and lack of roads makes many areas inaccessible to assistance. Even in Kabul, where there is little electricity to provide heat and there is much homelessness, people are dying from the cold and from starvation.

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New York Times 2/22/05; UNDOA 1/21/05; UN News Service 2/21/05; Associated Press 2/22/05; BBC News 2/22/05; Agence France Presse 2/17/05

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