Afghanistan – population
The population is estimated at 32.4 million. (2015). In the period 1978-2001, 5-6 million fled, mainly to neighboring Iran and Pakistan; more than 30% of the population became either external or internal refugees, and more than 1 million killed. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, more than 5 million external refugees and more than 600,000 internal refugees returned home, but in 2013 there were still more than 2 million. Afghan refugees abroad.
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Child mortality is 12%. The number of women dying in connection with childbirth was previously among the highest in the world, but has fallen sharply in recent years and in 2013 was 400 women for 100,000 births. Before the war, population growth was 2.4% per capita. years, less than in most other developing countries. In 1960, the birth rate was 7.7, and in 2015 it is estimated to be 5.3 with an estimated population growth of 2.8%. Family planning was introduced in the 1970’s, but had a fairly limited prevalence. Today, the prevalence of contraception is estimated at 2-9%, which is much lower than in neighboring countries, and about 20% of the population is under school age (7-12 years).
More than 3/4 of the population lives in the countryside but the cities are growing strongly, particularly Kabul, which has experienced explosive growth in population since the 1970’s. For culture and traditions of Afghanistan, please check animalerts.
The population is divided into ethnic groups and tribal awareness is strong. The Pashtuns (pathans) make up approximately 13 mio. and dominates political life. The Tajiks of about 9 million. is the second largest group. In addition, there are the Hazaras (about 3 million) and smaller peoples such as Baluchs, Turkmens, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.
Afghanistan – community life
There is a big difference in the conditions of the urban and rural population; they are best in the capital Kabul. Of the rural supply of health clinics and schools, 80% was destroyed during the period 1978-2001. The country’s health system in 2005 covers about 60% of the population, and 95% of children are vaccinated against polio and measles. Half of all hospitals and more than half of doctors and midwives are located in Kabul.
About 36% of all adults can read and write (21% of adult women), but after 2001 the number of school-going children rose sharply (to 5 million in 2005), a third of whom are girls. Over 50% of compulsory school children now go to school, but the differences between country and city, and between different regions of the country, remain significant.
The role of women in Afghan society has traditionally been withdrawn, and under Taliban rule they were denied access to schooling, work outside the home, and any participation in public life.
In terms of health, education and participation in the labor force and health, women are particularly disadvantaged. Almost 36% of women are estimated to participate in the labor force, but more than half of them are economically active in agriculture or in home industry.
Since 2001, the Afghan government’s policy has been to create gender equality, especially in health and education, and quotas guarantee women at least 25% of the seats in the National Assembly and the 34 provincial councils.
Afghanistan – business
About 80% of the population lives in rural areas and agriculture employs 67% of the labor force and contributes 53% of GDP. About 45% of the land is suitable for grazing, and animal husbandry, especially sheep breeding, is an important livelihood. Before the war years, a few million lived. of the population as a nomadic or semi nomadic but the war years hindered access to grazing areas and during drought 1999-2001 animal population was reduced to 1/3of the 1995 level. About 12% of the area can be cultivated with irrigation and fertilization; of which just over half are under plow. The farm is characterized by small family farms (5-6 ha), and the cultivation methods are simple; oxen are used as draft animals, but agricultural machinery is gaining ground. Annual precipitation is low in most places (300-400 mm) and falls mainly in winter and spring, but varies according to the nature of the terrain (above 1000 mm in the Hindu Kush and below 100 mm at the border with Iran). The summers are very hot and dry, and approximately 70% of the cultivated area is irrigated from canal systems in connection with the rivers. Other areas are irrigated with groundwater, which is carried along underground canals, karezer.Large country estates (100-200 ha) are found to a limited extent, north around Mazar-i Sharif and south at Kandahar. Since the 1980’s, opium has become the main crop; even though it is only cultivated on 7% of the irrigated area, it employs up to 4 million. people, of which 35% of all farmers. Wheat, maize, barley and rice are important crops, and regionally cotton, sugar beet, vegetables, fruit and nuts are also important. Before 1978, agricultural products, especially dried fruit and nuts, accounted for 41% of exports. Both agriculture and cattle farming suffered greatly during the war years, with a further decline in the drought years 1999-2001. Since 2002, agricultural production has risen sharply.
The country has large reserves of copper, lead, iron, coal as well as natural gas and oil, but only gas production is important, and gas exports (to the USSR) dominated exports before and during the war. The industry is poorly developed and employs only a few thousand. The few major industries are located around Kabul and Kunduz. Fruit, furs and leather goods, textiles for export and fertilizers for the domestic market are processed. A significant home industry, especially among the ethnic minorities (Turkmens, Uzbeks, Baluchs and Hazaras), produces hand-knotted rugs, kilim and other handicrafts. It mainly employs women and contributes approximately 10% of exports. The public sector is limited to the larger cities and makes up only a fraction of the service sector; this is dominated by private retail in bazaars.
Afghanistan – economy
Following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the international community has contributed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and the Afghan economy grew by almost 50% in 2002-04. However, GDP is a misleading expression of the country’s economy, as both the informal sector (small-scale non-registered production and trade) and the illegal (especially drugs) make up 80-90% of the economy. Afghanistan is estimated in 2005 to export opium worth 2.5 billion. dollar, which is 1/3 of GDP and about 87% of the world market for opium.
The income distribution is very skewed. A large part of the population has lost its livelihood during the war, and both in urban and rural areas, about 50% are poor and 20% live in extreme poverty.
Afghanistan – infrastructure
In Afghanistan there are no railways, but the country is roughly equipped with highways, which were built with American, Soviet and German aid in the 1960’s-70’s. In 1964, the Salang Tunnel opened in Hindu Kush; it is built at an altitude of 3360 m and shortens important transport distances in the north by over 200 km. Electricity supply and telecommunications are poorly developed and concentrated in the largest cities, with only 13% of the population having access to clean drinking water, 15% for sanitation and only 6% for electricity. In the years of conflict 1978-2001, most of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed through a combination of acts of war and lack of maintenance. There are few airports and only two are international: Kabul and Kandahar. Since 2002, mobile phones have become very widespread.
Afghanistan – nature
Afghanistan is a mountain country with large elevation differences, violent mountain ranges, glaciers and isolated valleys, plains and deserts. Almost half of the area is above 1800 masl The dominant mountain range is Hindu Kush, which is a tributary of the Himalayas. It spreads fan-shaped towards the SW and passes into the Hazarajat Mountains in the central part of the country.
The mountains are drained by four rivers: Helmand to the southwest, Hari Rud to the west, Kunduz (tributary of the Amu Darja) to the north and Kabul to the east (tributary of the Indus). Amu Darja and Darja Panj form the northern border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The valleys and plains of the south-east and north constitute the most important agricultural areas.
Afghanistan has a mainland climate with very large seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations (differences of 30-70 °C). The summers are hot and dry and to the west often windy, while the winters are harsh and snowy; Kabul is covered with snow 3-4 months a year.
The potential hydropower resources are relatively large, but exploitation has only just begun. The rivers Kunduz-Amu Darja are navigable and are used for transporting goods north.
Afghanistan – language
The official languages of Afghanistan are Pashto (or Pakhto) and Persian, which in Afghanistan is called Dari. Pashto became the official language in 1936 and is spoken by approximately 6 mio. in the southern variant and of approximately 1.7 million in the northern variant (2008). Dari is spoken by approximately 7.6 million native speakers (2011), but the language and its various dialects, which are spoken in Kabul, is also used among other language groups in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Baluchi, Uzbek, Turkmen, Pasai, Nuristani and others are spoken.