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About Afghanistan

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Society

What major achievements in social development have been made by the Government of Afghanistan since October 2001?

The Taliban neglected or dismantled much of Afghanistan’s educational institutions while they controlled Afghanistan. When the Taliban government fell, Afghanistan’s literacy rate hovered around 70 percent. 80 percent of schools had been damaged or destroyed, an inestimable loss to a people who cherish education. Today, 5.6 million boys and girls have access to education, a 500 percent increase since 2001. Approximately 40 percent of these children are girls, up from 3 percent in 2001. Over 3,200 schools have been built or refurbished, over 50 million textbooks have been published and over 50,000 teachers have been trained. Enrollment in universities has leaped tenfold from 4,000 in 2002 to 40,000 in 2005. Health care has also improved dramatically. Basic health care has extended from 7% to approximately 80% of the population. More than 500 health clinics have been built, serving approximately 7.4 million citizens. Thousands of midwives and community health workers are being trained to administer to rural populations and almost 10 million children have received polio vaccinations.

What is a Jirga?

A historically Pashto term, Loya Jirga, translates to “grand council.” It is a unique forum in which tribal elders of each ethnic group convene to discuss and resolve Afghanistan’s affairs. The loya jirga is centuries old tradition and a quintessential part of the Afghan government. A decision-making assembly, the jirga refrains from time limitations and continues until decision are reached through consensus. The jirga addresses a variety of issues, such as foreign policy, military action, or the introduction of new ideas and reforms.

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan held several jirgas to determine the best course of action for the country’s social, political and economic development. Approximately 1,500 delegates from all over Afghanistan took part in the loya jirga in Kabul. Each district elected 20 people, who then held a secret vote to select one person to represent the whole district. The 362 districts in Afghanistan had at least one seat, with more seats allotted for every 22,000 people. Ultimately, women held 160 of the remaining seats.

In 2003, another historical loya jirga convened to discuss the proposed Afghan constitution, which was ratified on January 4th, 2004. The most pressing issues were those of centralized power, social reform, and the feasibility of a free-market economy in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Parliament draws upon this deep-rooted tradition in its structure and performance of legislative functions.

In September of 2006, President Karzai proposed holding jirgas along the Afghanistan-Paksitan border during a trilateral meeting with U.S. President George Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Tribal elders on each side will side will meet with the participation of both President Karzai and President Musharraf with the hopes of resolving the problems of regional extremism and terrorism through consultation and consensus.


What sports are played in Afghanistan?

Kite flying and kite running is very popular with children. Soccer, cricket, and basketball have wide-spread appeal. A traditional sport, called buzkashi, is still played in Afghanistan, particularly in the north. As stability increases, sporting events are becoming more popular. Even opportunities for girls to play sports are becoming available which were strictly forbidden under the Taliban.

What is the health care status of Afghanistan?

Since 2002, the government has made considerable progress in increasing access to health care services. Afghanistan's health care sector has faced many challenges in the past four years, but the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) continues to move Afghanistan forward.

Afghanistan has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. One of every four Afghan children dies before the age of five. Average life expectancy for adults is estimated at 46 years. Further reinforcing these problems, the country is facing a chronic shortage of trained doctors. There is currently one physician for every 50,000 people, and an estimated 40 percent of the Afghan population has no access to primary health care services. By rebuilding the health system and the routine immunization program, the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners are bringing basic services and health education to under-served communities; mainly focusing on maternal and child health, hygiene, water and sanitation, as well as immunization and control of infectious diseases.

Some basic health condition indicators are:

           Infant mortality rate is 16%, 25 times higher than the U.S. rate

           Infant mortality rate: 1600 per 100,000 (UNICEF)

           Life expectancy: 46  years (USAID ACCESS/MNPI)

           Under 5 mortality rate: 257 per 1,000 (USAID ACCESS/MNPI)

           Under 1 mortality rate: 135 per 1,000 (UNICEF)

           Maternal mortality ratio: 1600 per 100,000 births (USAID ACCESS/MNPI)

           Under 5 malnutrition rate: 57% (UNICEF)

           Avg. # of children born to a woman during her lifetime: 6.3 (USAID ACCESS/MNPI)

           Deliveries assisted by healthcare professionals: 14% (USAID ACCESS/MNPI)

           About 85 percent of Afghan infants are born at home, without a trained midwife or health professional in attendance

Are the schools in Afghanistan being rebuilt?

The Government of Afghanistan has made education a top priority. Originally in 1935, education was declared universal, compulsory and free in Afghanistan. The Government has recommitted to this vision and is providing millions of young Afghans with new educational opportunities. Today, starting at age seven, children attend six years of primary school, three years of middle school and three years of secondary school. Afghanistan's Ministry of Education provides a specialized curriculum and textbooks that have been developed with the assistance of Afghanistan's international partners. Although many classrooms are overburdened and others occur under a tent or a tree, schools continue to be built by both the Afghan government and numerous generous partners from the international community. Currently, there are thirteen universities in Afghanistan educating 40, 000 students (19% women, 81% men), a tenfold increase from the 4,000 enrolled in 2002. American University of Afghanistan, supported by USAID, is opening its doors to Afghanistan and the world.

How can I read Afghan media?

 Free press is flourishing in Afghanistan. Seventeen privately owned TV stations and hundreds of radio stations and publications are rapidly changing the way that Afghans view the world. Below are links to some popular media sources:

Pahjwok: An independent news agency that provides daily coverage of news from across Afghanistan in Pashto, English, Dari, and Urdu. The name Pajhwok means echo or reflection in both Dari and Pashto.   

Ariana TV: A private, non-partisan, television and radio station, established in 2005 that aims to provide original content emphasizing education, health, children's programming, women's and world issues.

Tolo TV: Tolo means sunrise or dawn in Dari and symbolizes the beginning of a new era for Afghans. Tolo TV, launched in 2004, became one of the first commercial television stations to operate in Afghanistan offering news, sports, movies, lifestyle shows.

E-Ariana: A media publication devoted to compiling social, cultural, and political new briefs and articles from many sources.

Zeba Magazine: The first Afghan-American magazine, Zeba is published in the United States in English and Dari and reports on lifestyle, fashion, sports, entertainment, politics and the celebrates the Afghan community and culture.

Voice of America : The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty : A radio and communications organization which is funded by the United States Congress which aims to promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas.

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