At meeting of the World Health Organization in Copenhagen in March 1995, its director, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, stated that "There can be no social development or sustained economic growth without health. . . . Poverty remains the main obstacle to health development." These remarks clearly describe the situation concerning poverty in Afghanistan in 2001.
In 1996, a report published by the United Nations ranked Afghanistan as the third poorest country in the world. Very few Afghans have access to drinkable water, health care, or education. In Kabul, safe drinking water is enjoyed by only 1 out of every 8 families because the reservoirs have been polluted by the waste accumulated through war. Of all infant deaths, 42 percent are related to diarrhea and dehydration, which are caused by unsafe drinking water and unclean conditions. Unlike in the United States, children are not immunized against infant diseases such as polio or tuberculosis. There are very few polio-endemic countries left in the world today; Afghanistan is one of them.
Afghanistan has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world (185 per 1,000 live births), following Niger and Angola. It has a maternal mortality rate (number of mothers dying in child birth) of 1,700 per 100,000 live births, according to the UN. Life expectancy in 2001 was just 45 years for men and 46 years for women.
In 1997, UNICEF carried out a study in Kabul which concluded that the children of Afghanistan suffer from severe psychological trauma. Seventy-two percent of children interviewed had experienced the death of one or more family members between 1992 and 1996, and 40 percent of them had lost one parent. Almost all the children
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|United States 28,600||28,600||30,200||31,500||33,900||36,200|
|Note: Data are estimates.|
|SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations , 17th,18th, 19th and 20theditions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.|
had witnessed acts of extreme violence, and all the children had seen dead bodies in the streets. Ninety percent of the children interviewed believed that they would die in the conflict. Unsurprisingly, all the children interviewed suffered from nightmares and anxiety attacks.
The Taliban forbade women to work or enter any workplace, decreeing that they should stay confined to their homes. But due to the country's critical shortage of doctors, the Taliban decided to allow some female doctors to work in public hospitals in 1997. These women doctors were allowed to treat only female patients. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard a report in 1998 about the mistreatment of female doctors. The report indicated that these doctors were often beaten by hospital guards in an attempt to uphold the policy of the Department of Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil. Male doctors were not allowed to treat female patients except members of their own family and female patients who actively sought medical advice were often attacked and beaten and ordered not to appear again in the street. According to Amnesty International, in 1994 a pregnant woman delivered her baby in a street in Kabul, while her husband was being beaten by the guards for trying to take her to the hospital.