SEATTLE, Washington — Throughout the world, poverty runs rampant. Children go to sleep hungry while parents balance three or four jobs at a time. Many families face this harsh reality, especially in Middle Eastern countries. In between Asia and Africa, a bundle of countries makes up the Middle East. Afghanistan is one of these countries, a war-torn and poverty-stricken nation. Out of a population of almost 40 million, “47.3% of the population lives below the national poverty line in 2020,” according to the Asian Development Bank. A 2010 report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) notes that, in Afghanistan, more people die from poverty than directly from armed conflict, making poverty a leading cause of death in the nation. Poverty in Afghanistan still persists today.
Causes of Poverty
Depending on the region of the world, the origins of poverty can differ dramatically even if the underlying problems are similar. Some of the leading causes of poverty worldwide are inequality, conflict, lack of food, lack of clean water and sanitation and inadequate access to health care. Each of these causes alone creates setbacks but, when combined, they create extreme poverty.
The majority of citizens of war-torn nations suffer tremendously and poverty is a significant result of war. War and conflict inflict hardship through many different means, including damage to infrastructure, disruption of communities and society and displaced households.
Wherever civil war or international conflicts take place, the nation bears the brunt of the consequences. When the fight takes place internally, it often does vast damage to infrastructure. Hospitals are a common target, leaving people without access to medical help.
Similar to the damage of infrastructure, war inevitably disrupts the culture and communities in which it takes place. Where fighting is likely to occur, people can be forced to evacuate. If they do not abandon their homes, they become possible targets of violence. When a city is evacuated, families are separated and homes and property are lost. There is a high degree of conflict in Afghanistan, making it the main cause of poverty in the nation.
When families are evacuated, separated or lose family members to the conflict, the family becomes more vulnerable to poverty. This is especially the case when the breadwinner, culturally recognized as the husband, is killed or separated from his family. Afghan women in general, but especially widows and single women, are barred from taking on the same tasks as men in the Middle East, leaving them highly susceptible to poverty.
Inequality is a major cause of poverty in Afghanistan and around the world. Those who fall into a marginalized group, whether based on race, gender or sexual orientation, are often much more vulnerable to poverty. Marginalized people deemed “unequal” by their society are often more susceptible to poverty because inequality presents a barrier to success in several areas. In Afghanistan, women and people with disabilities are the most marginalized groups.
Poverty in Afghanistan is directly related to the widespread mistreatment of women. Within Afghan society, females are less likely to receive an education and do not have the same rights and entitlements as males. Within Middle Eastern society, this is not uncommon. Women are given much less freedom of choice. For example, men receive the best quality food in the household, which contributes to malnutrition in women. Women are culturally obliged to be caregivers, making it nearly impossible for them to join the workforce. All of these hindrances make women significantly more vulnerable to poverty in Afghanistan.
Generally speaking, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to poverty around the world. However, those with disabilities seem to be particularly susceptible to poverty in Afghanistan. Approximately 80% of adults in Afghanistan have some sort of disability or impairment. Having a disability puts one at a higher risk of poverty due to a possible inability to work, expensive medical bills or an absence of any medical care.
Lack of Land
In Afghanistan, about 74% of people live in rural areas but many do not own the land they live on. The inability to hold property means that a person has very little, if not nothing, to fall back on when faced with poverty, making it near impossible to bounce back.
There is Hope
Poverty in Afghanistan is rampant and improvement has been slow in the past decade. However, in the future, as internal conflicts cease, citizens can have equal rights to equal opportunities and access to property. According to the World Bank, poverty in Afghanistan can be eradicated. Afghanistan can pull itself from the depths of poverty by “strengthening agriculture, investing in human development and managing and mitigating risks that increase [impoverished]people’s vulnerability.” As poverty decreases, the nation can focus on addressing the extreme inequality gap and the lack of education throughout the nation.
– Cleveland Lewis