Learn more about specific causes in Afghanistan that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentMore than 80 percent of Afghanistan's land is threatened by soil erosion, which causes increased salinization and de-vegetation. Contributing causes to the environmental crisis include armed conflict, population displacement, and misuse of natural resources.1 Massive deforestation has created vulnerability to natural disasters. Droughts have decreased water resources and have encouraged emigration from Afghanistan.2 A huge part of the deterioration of the environment is the lack of government action and legislation to protect and preserve the environment. Over 70 percent of Afghanistan's forests have been cut down in the past 20 years. This deforestation has lead to an increase in floods and avalanches.3 These forests are sources of fuel and important materials. With the agrarian nature of the economy, nearly 80 percent of the population Read More are involved in farming or herding and depend on agricultural production for their livelihoods.4 Show Less
FamilyAfghans identify themselves very closely in kinship groups called qawm that often align with a blood-related group, clan, or tribe. Family is hugely important and extended families are the most significant social group. Families often view the action of one member as reflecting on the honor or shame of the entire family.1 Domestic abuse is very common in Afghanistan, due in large part to the prevalence of child marriage. Child marriage and pregnancy also contribute to high maternal death rates.2 There were over 3,700 cases of abuse against women reported in 2016. Armed groups were reported to attack women who worked or held public office.3
Human Rights1.4 million citizens were internally displaced at the end 2016, and 2.6 million Afghan refugees were living outside the country. The Taliban still believes they are the rightful rulers of Afghanistan and are one of the groups that pose threats to journalists and reporters in the country who support human rights. There is widespread armed conflict throughout the country. There is no freedom of speech and media. There were over 100 cases of human rights defenders being violently threatened because of their work in 2016.1 Prisoners in Afghanistan are also subject to gross mistreatment, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arbitrary arrest and detention. Violence and discrimination against women and girls are also rampant.2
EducationNearly two-thirds of female children in Afghanistan are not enrolled in school. A report by Human Rights Watch revealed that as international attention and funding move away from the country, the emphasis on female education is waning. This misrepresentation is institutionalized; less than 20 percent of teachers are female in half of the country’s provinces.1 35 percent of all children are married by the time they reach the age of 18.9 percent are married by the time they are 15. Girls Not Brides cites poverty, strong patriarchal values, and low education rates as contributors to the large number of child marriages in the country.2 Currently, free education is available and compulsory for young children, and nearly 10 million children attend school. Despite some advances, the Read More literacy rate is still at a low 38 percent with large gender discrepancies.3 Show Less
PovertyOnly 6 percent of the Afghan population has access to electricity. It is also extremely difficult for the internally displaced to find reliable sources of food and water. The city of Kabul has had difficulty accommodating and providing for the thousands of people streaming in from the war-torn countryside.1 Access to healthcare, particularly immunizations, is limited by poverty.2 Widows are some of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society. There are about 2 million widows in Afghanistan, and without a man they have nearly no rights. Widows also lose custody rights to their children when their husband dies.3 The country's unemployment rate is 35 percent.4
ReligionIslam is the official religion in Afghanistan. 99.7 percent of the population is Muslim, with 85–90 percent following Sunni Muslim traditions and 10–15 percent identifying as Shia Muslim.1 Although the Afghan Constitution technically allows for religious freedom, it requires religious practice to remain within the provisions of the law. Thus, discrimination against non-Muslim religions is common. Conversion to another religion from Islam is considered apostasy by the government, which is grounds for potential execution. Fear of religious persecution keeps minority religious groups from addressing their legal issues in courts.2 Under Taliban rule, women's rights were limited and education was abandoned beyond basic Quran-based studies. Much of the country's infrastructure fell apart while the Taliban focused on running a society based in Muslim law.3
Clean Water55 percent of the Afghan population has access to improved water sources, and 32 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities. Citizens are at high risk of contracting bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever from food and waterborne diseases.1 Improper waste management and disposal have contaminated the few clean water sources available to urban population, posing new threats due to poor infrastructure and maintenance of existing structures. The Afghan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation is working on a 30 year project to improve these issues.2 In rural areas, only 20 percent of the population has access to clean water. This is the lowest percentage in the world. Clean water is rare and out of reach for the vast majority of Read More Afghan people. Even in the city of Kabul, 80 percent of its 6 million residents lacks safe drinking water.3 Show Less
EconomyThe lack of comprehensive data on Afghanistan’s economic development makes reliable information difficult to obtain. The country's GDP increased by 2.4 percent in 2016, indicating slow growth.1 Ongoing conflict and violence in recent years have kept the country from developing consistently. Afghanistan relies heavily on its agricultural sector and well over 70 percent of the population are estimated to rely on agriculture for jobs and livelihood.2 A joint report by the World Bank and the Afghan government revealed that the rise in national unemployment correlated to international troops moving out of the country.3
GovernmentThe Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a presidential Islamic republic consisting of three branches of power: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The current president is the country's first democratically elected head of state. The Ministry of Justice had acknowledged 57 political parties as of 2016.1 After the Afghan war and years of political instability, the government still faces several significant challenges to productivity, the first being the dependence on foreign aid.2 Additionally, alleged corruption and mismanagement of funds are pervasive problems. Over $100 billion of U.S. aid is reported to have been lost to grafting.3 Transparency International ranks the Afghan government as one of the most corrupt in the world. It is ranked 169th out of 176 countries, and the Afghan public scores their own public Read More officials a low 15 out of 100 for perceived corruption.4 Show Less
HealthAfghanistan's people suffer severe health risks ranging from environmental diseases to poverty-caused malnutrition. Tuberculosis and malaria are common difficulties, and HIV/AIDS is a growing issue. Other epidemics include cholera, measles, meningitis and pertussis.1 The maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is 396 deaths per 100,000 live births. Infant mortality is the highest on earth; 110 deaths per 1,000 live births. 25 percent of children are malnourished, and life expectancy is only 51 years.2 Many NGOs are moving in to the country to improve the available health care and train local professionals through a program called the System Enhancement for Health Action Transition.3
ChildrenAfghan children struggle with several severe health risks. 10 percent of children in Afghanistan will die before their fifth birthday, and 25 percent of children under the age of five show signs of malnutrition.1 Additionally, women in remote villages have little access to healthcare or clinics for their children. Afghanistan is recognized as one of the most dangerous places to give birth.2 Child labor is estimated to affect around 25 percent of Afghan children between the ages of five and 14. Only half of these children attend school. The legal working age is 18, with exceptions for children ages 14 to 18. The government does not have the financial capacity to enforce this law.3 Afghanistan's long history of war and violence affects its children profoundly. Read More The significantly war-torn regions produce large numbers of refugees, and educating and caring for refugee children is difficult.4 Show Less
AnimalsAfghanistan is located in the Palearctic region and is a key host to over 30,000 migratory birds. Local species include the Chiltan wild goat, Himalayan black bear, leopard cat, and grey langur. Some forests have greatly dropped in biodiversity due to unhindered extraction of timber without consideration for sustainability. Other threats to local wildlife include the digging of irrigation channels and clearing of forests for industrial sites, as well as pollution of waterways from waste and sewage. The red fox especially is threatened by over-hunting because of its valuable red pelt.1
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