Almost half the population of Afghanistan is living in poverty. Only one in 10 has access to clean water and sanitation. Child mortality is the highest in the world and maternal mortality is also very high.
The population is made up of many different kinds of people. They in turn are divided into clans, which at times have been at war with each other but have usually joined forces against foreign conquest attempts. Since the late 1970s there has been almost uninterrupted war in the country and millions of people have been displaced.
Today, Afghanistan is governed by an elected president and an elected parliament. The elections held in 2004 and 2005 were the first in more than 30 years. New elections were held in 2009 in which President Karzai was re-elected after being accused of serious fraud. A Peace Council was then appointed to try to initiate peace talks with the Talibans, who have gained larger influence in many parts of the country.
The security situation in the country has deteriorated in recent years, which affects the ability to implement and monitor interventions. The attacks have especially increased in the north, where much of Sweden's work is carried out.
The state budget is largely built upon development assistance and the country’s economy is poorly developed, with the exception of the illegal narcotics trade. The majority of the world’s heroin is produced in Afghanistan. Corruption has worsened in the last years, which combined with the large-scale impunity makes it difficult to put an end to the illegal business.
Afghanistan is described as one of the world’s three, four most corrupted countries. According to the organisation Trancparency International, the country is a typical example of how corruption flows when there are no existing state and municipial institutions .
Few women can read and write
Nearly seven out of 10 Afghans are under the age of 25. Most of them have neither got a job or go to school and the literacy rate is very low, especially among girls who were not allowed to attend school during the Taliban regime. The education system suffers from serious shortcomings, particularly in terms of access to trained teachers, classrooms and textbooks. At the same time, there has been large progress in recent years in terms of schooling; in 2001, only 900,000 students attended school while the figure had increased to 7.5 million in 2012. Out of those, 34 per cent are girls.
Women's position is generally poor. There are few female teachers and the schools are often far away from villages. Girls do not have the same chance to go to school as boys. This affects women's ability to participate in and influence society.
Infrastructure will help grow private sector
Most Afghans depend on farming for their survival. But droughts, high food prices and threats from unexploded mines and ammunition make it difficult for farmers to cope. Because growing poppies for opium is so profitable, it is hard to get farmers to grow any other crop. To create other possibilities for self-support in rural areas, the roads need to be rebuilt again.
Sweden’s focus areas in Afghanistan:
- Democracy and human rights
- Education, with a special focus on girls and women
- Development of the private sector.
Read more about our work in Afghanistan.