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Poverty kills more people than war in Afghanistan

By Betwa Sharma
March 31, 2010 15:21 IST

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and poverty kills more Afghans than war, according to a new report issued by the human rights division of the UN.

"Poverty actually kills more Afghans than those who die as a direct result of the armed conflict," Norah Niland, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Afghanistan said.

"Poverty deprives two-thirds of the Afghan population from living a decent and dignified life. This includes the inability to enjoy their most basic and fundamental rights, such as getting an education or having access to health services," he added.

The top UN human rights official in the country stressed that the root cause of poverty in Afghanistan was human rights violation that took the shape of patronage, corruption, impunity and opting for short-term solutions over long-term developmental goals.

"Poverty is neither accidental, nor inevitable; it is both a cause and a consequence of a massive human rights deficit," the report said. "The deficit includes widespread impunity and inadequate investment in, and attention to, human rights."

"A human rights angle offers a complementary approach to existing poverty reduction strategies," Niland noted, urging dismantling of abusive power structures to realise sustainable poverty reduction.

The study also pointed out that Afghanistan had the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, which means that 25,000 women die each year because of complications associated with pregnancy.

Further, only 23 per cent of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and only 24 per cent of the population above the age of 15 can read and write with much lower literacy rates among women and nomadic populations.

The report calls for the poor being placed at the centre of decision-making process that affect their life. It also recommends escalating up poverty reduction efforts and warns against allocating resources to military agenda at the cost of developmental objectives.

"When Afghans have been consulted they have repeatedly identified poverty and unemployment as important factors in the spread of insecurity," Niland said.

Betwa Sharma at the United Nations
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