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Afghanistan

The latest poverty numbers for Afghanistan: a call to action, not a reason for despair

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture

The just-released Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) paints a stark picture of the reality facing Afghanistan today. More than half the Afghan population lives below the national poverty line, indicating a sharp deterioration in welfare since 2011-12.[1]  The release of these new ALCS figures is timely and important. These figures are the first estimates of the welfare of the Afghan people since the transition of security responsibilities from international troops to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in 2014.

While stark, the findings are not a surprise

Given what Afghanistan has gone through in the last five years, the significant increase in poverty over this period is not unexpected. The high poverty rates represent the combined effect of stagnating economic growth, increasing demographic pressures, and a deteriorating security situation in the context of an already impoverished economy and society where human capital and livelihoods have been eroded by decades of conflict and instability.

The withdrawal of international troops starting in 2012, and the associated decline in aid, both security and civilian, led to a sharp decline in domestic demand and much lower levels of economic activity. The deterioration in security since 2012, which drove down consumer and investor confidence, magnified this economic shock. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan’s average annual rate of economic growth fell from 9.4 percent in the period 2003-2012 to only 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2016. With the population continuing to grow more than 3 percent a year, per capita GDP has steadily declined since 2012, and in 2016 stood $100 below its 2012 level. Even during Afghanistan’s years of high economic growth, poverty rates failed to drop, as growth was not pro-poor. In recent years, as population growth outstripped economic growth, an increase in poverty was inevitable.

Making schools more resilient in Afghanistan

Julian Palma's picture
 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
A primary school teacher in western Herat Province is teaching her students numbers with toys. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/World Bank

In Afghanistan, access to education has been a successful driver of development over the last seventeen years.

In 2001, one million children--almost none of them girls-- were enrolled in 3,400 schools. In 2015, there was a nine-fold increase in enrolment with more than eight million students in 16,400 schools, of whom almost 40 percent were girls.

While it's encouraging to see progress in access to education, the quality and safety of the school facilities are not as reassuring : One of every two students in Afghanistan learns in overcrowded temporary shelters or in fragile outdoor conditions.
 
Given Afghanistan's vulnerability to natural disasters, it's urgent to build safer schools and rehabilitate older facilities in order to protect lives.

If an earthquake were to hit Afghanistan on a school day, 5 million students would be affected. 

In the past, addressing infrastructure resilience has been a challenge since information regarding current and future disaster and climate risk has been extremely limited and fragmented.

Compounded by decades of conflict, this has undermined Afghanistan's ability to cope and effectively respond to natural disasters.

How has Afghanistan achieved better health for its citizens?

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
A local woman has brought her eight-month-old son to the Baidari Hospital in eastern Jalalabad city for vaccination.
A local woman has brought her eight-month-old son to the Baidari Hospital in eastern Jalalabad city for vaccination. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Over the last 15 years—despite continuing insecurity—Afghanistan has made steady progress to improve the health of its citizens, especially women and children. Health services have expanded as far as remote areas to reach underserved communities thanks to innovative partnerships with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

To understand what underpins such health gains, we sat down with Ghulam Dastagir Sayed, Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank and one of the authors of the recently published report Progress in the Face of Insecurity.  

Voices of Youth: A Hope for One South Asia from Young Economists at Students' Meet

Nikita Singla's picture
Young economists from South Asia at South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM) 2018, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Young economists from South Asia at South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM) 2018, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Photo Credits: Nikita Singla/World Bank

At the 14th South Asia Economic Students’ Meet (SAESM), more than 100 top economics undergraduates and faculties from seven countries in South Asia convened in Chittagong, Bangladesh to discuss how greater regional integration in South Asia can help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As these young economists engaged in vigorous academic competitions and research presentations on South Asia’s development opportunities, they also created fond memories and built lifelong friendships. Was SAESM 2018 a new hope for #onesouthasia? Let’s hear it from the students themselves.

“With the momentum built up, the stage set, with a banner that in all its glory was decorated with the flags of the seven South Asian states, we sat in our respective country groups to embark on a three-day long journey that was to change my perception of South Asia forever. The dis-embarkment on this passage saw us divided by geographical boundaries, as India and Pakistan made sure to sit the farthest away from each other. The end to this voyage, however, painted a story not many foresaw – twenty Indians and Pakistanis crammed together in a single bus, discussing our common history with a fondness anew to most, accompanied by bursts of people from either side breaking into rounds of Antakshari. At that point, we were one!" – Alizeh Arif, Lahore School of Economics

Rural Women Entrepreneurs: What does it take?

Shobha Shetty's picture

“Sabse jyada munafa chuski mein hai (The biggest margin lies in small ice pops)”, says Shanti Devi with the definitive confidence of a seasoned entrepreneur. Shanti, a resident of Kotwana village in Bihar’s Gaya district runs an ice-cream production and sales unit that has an annual revenue of INR 1.9 million and employs 22 workers for a significant part of the year. While sharing the long list of ice-cream flavours she vends, Shanti also signals at a much larger phenomenon. “Every third shop in this market is run by a JEEViKA member, ranging from grocery and utensil stores to a newspaper agency.”


Shanti is the microcosm of a transformative ecosystem that has nurtured 1.8 million new and existing women entrepreneurs while creating 800,000 new jobs in India. The JEEViKA that Shanti refers to, is a World Bank supported program of the Government of Bihar aimed at empowering women through Self-Help groups (SHGs), commodity specific producer groups and higher federations. The approach scaled up nation-wide under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) is driving growth and job creation in rural areas through women-owned enterprises.

Today there are 45 million rural women across India that are mobilized into self-help groups under the NRLM umbrella. Some 3.9 million SHGs and their federations have been empowered with skills, access to finance, markets, and business development services.  This is triggering a huge change in the lives of the rural women.

South Asia’s prosperity will require more women to work for pay

Annette Dixon's picture

Women in the Work Force

South Asia has enjoyed a growth rate of 6 percent a year over the past 20 years. This has translated into declining poverty and improvements in health and education. While worthy of celebration as we mark International Women's Day, the success could have been more dramatic if more women worked for pay. Only 28 percent of women in South Asia have a job or are looking for one, compared to 79 percent of men. This is the second lowest in the world, after the Middle East and North Africa region at 21 percent.

With the largest working-age population and growing middle class, South Asia’s development potential is vast. But the lack of women in employment and economic participation reflects lost potential. In India and Sri Lanka, tens of millions of women have dropped out of the work force over the last twenty years.

Many factors are holding them back. Almost half of South Asia’s adult women are illiterate and its girls suffer from the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Rates of violence against women and maternal mortality remain among the highest in the world. All these factors translate into a labor market characterized by low participation, high unemployment and persistent wage gaps for women.

What can be done to better prepare and encourage women to participate in the work force? It starts with valuing our daughters as much as our sons – providing them with the same access to nutritious foods and investing in their education for them to reach their potential. Let’s spark the interest of young girls in subjects like science and mathematics, and convince them that they are just as capable as boys –that they too can build careers in engineering, scientific research, IT, and other fields that are in demand by employers. We must also raise our sons to respect girls and women, and make it clear that there is zero-tolerance for gender-based violence.

The 2018 Fragility Forum: Managing risks for peace and stability

Franck Bousquet's picture
© Caroline Gluck/Oxfam


In just under two weeks, about 1,000 people will gather in Washington D.C. for the 2018 Fragility Forum. Policy makers from developed and developing countries, practitioners from humanitarian agencies, development institutions and the peace and security communities, academics and representatives of the private sector will come together with the goal of increasing our collective impact in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV).
 
The theme of the Forum, Managing Risks for Peace and Stability, reflects a strategic shift in how the global community addresses FCV – among other ways by putting prevention first. This renewed approach is laid out in an upcoming study done jointly by the World Bank and United Nations: Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict. The study says the world must refocus its attention on prevention as a means to achieving peace. The key, according to the authors, is to identify risks early and to work closely with governments to improve response to these risks and reinforce inclusion.

The APMG PPP Certification Program: Q&A with Abdul Nafi Sarwari

Abdul Nafi Sarwari's picture



The APMG PPP Certification Program enables participants to take their skills to the next level, and the Certified PPP Professional (CP3P) credential is a means to officially convey that expertise and ability.

At the core of the program is the PPP Guide, a comprehensive Body of Knowledge that distills globally agreed-upon definitions, concepts, and best practices on PPPs. The program is an innovation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), and the World Bank Group (WBG), with financial support from the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF).

Whether you’re thinking about signing up, or already enrolled, in this series we share some insight from practitioners who have already passed the test. This week, we caught up with Abdul Nafi Sarwari, a Senior Financial & Economic Specialist for PPPs with the Central Partnership Authority within Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance. Read his answers below.

Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time

Walker Bradley's picture
Mapping Afghanistan’s future, one road at a time
OpenStreetMap is an open source geospatial data portal built and maintained by a community of mappers. Photo Credit: Taimani Films/ World Bank


In May 2017, the World Bank celebrated its 15 years of reengagement in Afghanistan. Since reengagement, we have helped the government deliver public services to its citizens and, in the process, accumulated a wealth of data on many sectors from health and education to infrastructure.

However, publicly available base data used across sectors – also called ‘foundation’ data-- is still lacking. As it happens, that information is important to design projects and inform policies.

Case in point: while we may have data on vaccines given or babies born, we don’t know much about the roads that lead to the clinic. Similarly, we may get data on school attendance and passing rates of students, but we don’t know how long it takes for students to reach their schools.

These examples highlight how foundation data can help better plan the expansion of healthcare facilities or enhance access to education. After all, each mapped kilometer of a road can help us understand how long Afghan children must walk to get to school or how long it takes sick Afghans to reach a hospital.

Without question, there is a clear need for better foundation data to inform decision making at all levels.

2017 in Review: Look at the posts you engaged with the most on social media

Zubedah Robinson's picture

2018 is here, and we hope your new year is off to a positive start! Thank you for being a part of the global movement to help end poverty. For every like, share, “heart”, retweet, you name it, thanks for engaging with our content!

Every year brings new highlights, challenges, and priorities, and 2017 was no different. Here is a look at some of the content you engaged with the most on social media in the past year:

Twitter:

No one should be driven into bankruptcy simply because they have to pay for healthcare for themselves or their loved ones. So unsurprisingly, you showed strong  support for #HealthforAll during the Universal Health Coverage Forum in December.

We were also very impressed to see how strongly you feel about preserving our planet. During last month’s One Planet Summit, several of you replied to the news of the World Bank’s announcement on phasing out financing of oil and gas exploration, with positivity. For example @RalienBekkers said: “Great, everyone should follow”:
Do you believe that no country can attain its full potential without the equal participation of both women and men in the country’s economy? Many of you agreed that women shouldn’t be restricted from doing some jobs, just because they are women:
 

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