KABUL — For many people, hearing the name Afghanistan conjures images of war and turmoil. However, the country is a lot more than a battlefield. Located in Southern Asia, Afghanistan is home to an estimated 33,332,025 people. An enormous population, many of these people are caught in the devastating conditions that surround the country. Knowledge about these people and their plight are the first steps in learning how to help people in Afghanistan.
The most internationally known challenge facing the Afghan people and their government is the Taliban. This insurgent group is leading a campaign of terror attacks in the hope of retaking control of the country. They consider themselves the rightful owner of the government and refuse to pursue a peace deal with the nation’s capital, Kabul, until foreign military forces leave.
With Afghanistan being the second poorest country in the world, it comes as no surprise that almost half the Afghan population lives below the poverty line. The gross national income per citizens in Afghanistan is about 370 dollars per year. Despite the government’s attempts to provide basic human services, an estimated 9 million Afghans remain in need of food, medical care and other life-saving support.
Obtaining an education is another obstacle for many Afghans, evident in the country’s 28 percent adult literacy rate. The war has disturbed many regular education functions and systems across the country. Only 60 percent of children are sent to school and their classes are often overpopulated, holding up to 60 students at a time.
Child labor, violence and exploitation are also prominent in the country. Children as young as 5 years old are forced into child labor and relatively 20 percent of all children are expected to work to provide for their families in Afghanistan. Children are forced to work in agricultural, construction and transportation fields, making them particularly vulnerable to the armed conflict around them. Many are even forced into sexual exploitation, which has resulted in relatively 1,500 incidents of sexual abuse recorded each year.
Recognizing these circumstances and realities is necessary if anyone hopes to determine how to help people in Afghanistan. Fortunately, there are many relief efforts to provide an answer to the question.
Providing uprooted families with shelter, tents, clean water, sanitation and other necessities will help diminish poverty. With an estimated 500,000 Afghans displaced by the conflict as of December 2016, has become a real issue in the overcrowded homes and urban spaces. The U.N. Refugee Agency has built more than 180,000 shelters, providing more than one million people a roof over their heads .
Overcrowded classrooms make it evident that there is a need for revamping Afghanistan’s education system. Providing safe learning spaces in rural areas is one way to help Afghans. In response to this need, USAID and the Ministry of Education built more than 16,000 schools and trained more than 154,000 teachers. Distributing textbooks and providing easy access to schools not only help children further their education, but it also helps women and girls attend school more often.
Other programs could also help in the fight to alleviate poverty. Assisting Afghans find employment through skills-based training and apprenticeship programs for high-demand jobs would provide stable incomes and stabilize the economy. Prevention programs that promote hygiene will help curb illnesses and spread of disease.
Seeing the pain and suffering of Afghans raises the question of how to help people in Afghanistan for which many answers exist. Knowing the obstacles Afghani citizens face allows organizations to correctly identify a target area to support.
– Danyel Harrigan