Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

The Eradication of Poverty: a Distant Dream in Afghanistan

Yesterday was International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which every year is marked throughout the world on October 17. Historically its first commemoration took place in France, in 1987 when 100,000 people got to gather in Paris to honor victims of poverty, hunger and violence. In 1992, the United Nations officially designated October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. One of the primary goals of the Day is to recognize the struggles of the impoverished and to make their voices heard by governments and ordinary citizens. Raising awareness and participation of poor people is another important aspect for the observance of the Day.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is also marked in Afghanistan with giving reports and talking about poverty consequences on human life. According to the latest report revealed by FAO, 44.6% of Afghan citizens do not have access to enough food while 33.6% people, especially the vulnerable people such as children and women are suffering from malnourishment. Unfortunately, it imposes very incurable health consequences on children such as mental retardation, stunting, and psychological problem and so on. Overall, Afghanistan remains one the world’s poorest countries with more than half population living under the national poverty line.
However, the international community has contributed billions of dollars to Afghanistan in last 18 years and if it was distributed in cash each per person could receive around $ 33,000. Unfortunately, the aid was not properly managed and so no fundamental change has taken place in economic situation of the Afghan people. It is said the donated money flew from the country investing in Dubai, Istanbul, London and other cities around the world that must be returned to Afghanistan with the help of the international community. According to a survey which was carried out in 2016 and 2017 by the Central Statistics Office of Afghanistan, about 55 percent of Afghans are below the poverty line. Based on geographical situation and seasonal changes, the poverty rate in summer is reduced, but in winter it is increased to about 67.7%.
Now, as we mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the level of poverty is worrying and its eradication seems a distant dream due to lack of strategy and everyday conflicts. According to some international reports, Afghanistan is the second poorest country in the world after Somalia. However, poverty is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan it has a long history and widely challenged the Afghan people. Thus, it has been the effect of various causes needing a separate comprehensive research but the decline of international aid has certainly intensified the issue in recent years.
After decline of international aid many people have not only lost their jobs but also lost one or several member of their family in the war, addition or migration. Because of many reasons such as rising volatility in Afghan cities and also poor monetary or fiscal policy in central bank, the underground economy has expanded, Afghan currency lost its value, the basic goods became more expensive and consequently more people fell below the poverty line. Accordingly, the brain drain, capital flight and opium addiction has also intensified the condition.
Since Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, paying attention to poverty trap is very important. The idea of poverty traps is very simple but often belittled. The main idea of the poverty trap is that every country in the twenty-first century needs to some infrastructure to achieve economic growth and sustainable development. For example, every country needs basic facilities such as roads to transit goods and move people, having seaports to exchange goods from one country to another through sea, airfield, electricity, water and sanitation and access to basic health services. If a country has no access to primary health care services in the country, the population will be exposed to all kinds of diseases, and thus impose a lot expenses on people. However, many of the poor government are not able afford the expenses in short time.
In general, there are a lot of debates about elimination of poverty traps in countries and there have been many studies in this regard, but there are two basic ways to eliminate poverty traps.firstly, we need to identify the poor; In developed countries, the welfare system and the tax system are either in the hands of an entity or its information is provided to the relevant institutions therefore identifying poor is easy. So, when a person claims that he/she is poor to receive welfare services, he / she is assessed according to the work experience and available information. Unfortunately, in our country, due to the lack of a robust information system, people are difficult to be identified by government support programs.
Secondly, we need to create support programs for poor people and it can be divided into two different categories: conditional and unconditional. The conditional support means that the government can pay a certain amount of money to students’ families for enrolling their children in school to continue their class every month. This program has several benefits. First, it encourages families to send their children to schools with leading to increased literacy and eliminating illiteracy in the country. Thus, the policy maker can also support the poor. The second type of support is unconditional support without any conditions and certain privileges. For example, the government can identify the poor and declare that health care services are free for poor. Anyway, it should be emphasized that poverty has a direct link to insecurity in the country. As long as we cannot put an end to the war, the eradication of poverty would remains as a distant dream in Afghanistan.