After a decade of a lack of reliable
information, Afghanistan launched its first-ever National Human
Development Report (NHDR) on Monday.
The report - entitled "Security with a Human Face" and based on two years' work by the government and the United Nations - is expected to help policy makers and stakeholders in the post-conflict country where there has been very little relevant or reliable information.
The data in the report may help to avoid what some fear: that while many gains have been made in the past two years, the country could still fall into a cycle of conflict and instability unless people's genuine grievances regarding unemployment, health, education and poverty are dealt with adequately.
Amongst the key statistical findings, the report shows that Afghanistan's Human Development Index (HDI) falls close to the bottom of the 177 countries ranked by the global Human Development Report 2004, way behind all of its neighbours and only just above Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone.
"Security with a Human Face" also provides shocking findings, including the fact that every 30 minutes a woman in Afghanistan dies from pregnancy-related causes. It also notes that 20 percent of children die before the age of five and that more than 300,000 children may have perished during the conflict.
It also says that the poorest 30 percent of the population receive only 9 percent of the national income, while the upper 30 percent receive 55 per cent.
"It is very significant that the report has been produced by Afghans that are independent from the government and the UN system, and that this is the first time that Afghanistan has produced such a report," Hanif Atmar, Afghan minister of rural rehabilitation and development, told IRIN after the report's launch in the capital, Kabul.
"This is a report which tells you what the situation looks like, and what the government and the international community should do."
Other findings indicate that life expectancy, at 44.5 years, is 20 years lower than in all of the neighbouring countries and 6.1 years lower than the average of least developed countries. It also says that only 28.7 percent of Afghans over the age of 15 can read and write.
Atmar said the report also warned that over 61 percent of all children are not enrolled in school, with the figure for girls being over 80 percent.
According to the minister, the report provides guidance for the government in terms of policy targeting and is a tool for building accountability. "The government will be held accountable for the progress it makes or the failures it might make in terms of changing the situation that has been portrayed in this report."
The report is based on research papers, interviews with people and consultations with elders, scholars and anyone with an opinion on the issue.
The Afghanistan NHDR embodies the idea that human security is not a privilege but a public good to which every Afghan is equally entitled. "Human security should not be just the end of war or the ability to survive, but also the chance to live a life of dignity and have an adequate livelihood," the report stresses.
Human development reports are sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) globally and are produced as analytical and policy tools designed to promote the concept of human development. Since 1992, over 479 NHDRs have been produced by 130 countries, identifying many issues of importance.
The UNDP has also produced annual global human development reports which calculate the Human Development Index, ranking about 175 participating countries.
One of the real challenges for policy-making in Afghanistan is the limited amount of reliable data and analysis to inform policy makers and practitioners.
Researchers and policy makers in Kabul welcomed the launch of the Afghanistan NHDR. "The NHDR is a very significant report as it presents much of the data that exists on the state of human development in Afghanistan," Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), told IRIN.
According to the United Nations in Kabul, the Afghan NHDR was initiated in April 2003 by the government of Afghanistan and UNDP, with financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the World Bank.
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