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AFGHANISTAN: Fifth least developed country in the world

KABUL, 18 November 2007 (IRIN) - Afghanistan has dropped a place in a UN global human development index, which ranks countries based on their citizens’ economic income, life expectancy and literacy rate, according to the country’s National Human Development Report (NHDR) for 2007.

Afghanistan was ranked 174th out of 178 countries - ahead of only Burkina Faso, Mali, Sierra Leone and Niger. In Afghanistan’s first-ever human development report, which was released in 2004, the country was ranked 173rd and was widely expected to improve its human development indicators.

Afghans live almost nine years less than people in other Least Developed Countries, the report’s findings show.

“Life expectancy [in Afghanistan] has dropped from 44.5 years in 2003 to 43.1 years in 2005,” states the report, which was released on 18 November in Kabul.

The report acknowledges Afghanistan’s steady progress in improving its health services and reducing child and maternal mortality figures (1,600 deaths per 100,000 births), but warns that over 30 Afghans still die from tuberculosis every day.

Poverty

Although Afghanistan has maintained double-digit economic growth over the past several years, it has failed to reduce extreme and prevalent poverty and hunger significantly, the report says.

The NHDR ranks Afghanistan as the poorest country in Asia, with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$964.

“Some 6.6 million Afghans do not meet their minimum food requirements, with 24 percent of households characterised by poor food consumption,” the report says. Consequently, almost half all Afghan children under five are underweight, it adds.

The report also found that less than 30 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 24.5 million citizens have regular access to clean water.


Photo: CPHD
The Afghanistan Human Development Report places the country 174th among 178 countries
Education


Widely devastated by over 25 years of armed conflict, Afghanistan has one of the lowest adult literacy rates among developing countries, with the literacy rate for adults over the age of 15 falling from 28.7 percent in 2003 to 23.5 percent in 2005, the report states.

Afghan women, in particular, suffer lack of access to education. “Enrolment rates for women at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels are almost half that of men - 41.8 percent for females and 73.7 percent for males,” the report said.

Women are also deemed far behind men in other human development indicators, such as access to health services, employment opportunities and longevity.

Rule of law

The 176-page NHDR 2007, produced by about 40 Afghan and international experts, primarily recommends a bridging of traditional rules with a formal judicial system in the country.

The report highlights some of the major shortcomings in both formal and informal legal mechanisms currently in place in the country and advocates for a hybrid system, which should expand women’s participation in judicial decision-making and ensure reliable, transparent and easy access to justice for all Afghans.

The report warned of Afghanistan’s limited progress towards its nine millennium development goals (MDGs). It said in spite of remarkable advances in human development since 2002, the country is not progressing fast enough in many sectors to achieve its MDGs by 2020, which will have “dire consequences for the poor and most vulnerable”.

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Theme (s): Children, Early Warning, Economy, Education, Gender Issues, Health & Nutrition,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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