Majority of Afghans live in poverty despite $35 billion in aid? What happened to the money?

The majority of Afghans live in dire poverty, despite an estimated $35 billion in aid being poured into the country between 2002 to 2009, the United Nations said Tuesday.

A report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights claims that over a third of Afghans live in “absolute poverty” and about the same number are only slightly above the poverty line. It blamed corruption in Afghanistan, and the international community for ignoring the basic needs of people.

“The government is often unable to deliver basic services, such as security, food, or shelter,” the report said.

“Widespread corruption further limits access to services for a large proportion of the population,” it found, accusing Afghan officials of advancing their own interests at the expense of the general population.

The 26-page report also criticized the international community for placing too much emphasis on security and too little on long-term development. More than eight years after a U.S.-led military coalition ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan has the world’s second highest maternal mortality rate and the third worst rate of child mortality, according to the report.

“Only 23 percent of the population have access to safe drinking water, and only 24 percent of the population above the age of 15 can read and write, with much lower literacy rates among women and nomadic populations,” it said.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights office said the world was failing to address these problems despite pledging a new beginning for the country at a 2001 conference in Bonn, Germany.

For many Afghans, the only way to survive is to take up arms and perpetuate the “vicious circle” of war and poverty that has plagued the country for decades, Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

The report warned that “a growing number of Afghans are increasingly disillusioned and dispirited” about prospects for a better future.

Officials at Afghanistan’s U.N. mission in Geneva said they had yet to read the report and were unable to comment.

  • U.N. poverty report for Afghanistan:
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