Features
    Trade Fact Of The Week
    Afghan life expectancy has risen by 17 years since 2001.
    February 13, 2014

    THE NUMBERS: Afghan vital data from 2001 to 2012 -

    Life expectancy at birth 60 years in 2012
    43 years in 2001
    Child mortality rate 71 deaths per 1000 in 2012
    257 deaths per 1000 in 2001
    Maternal mortality rate 460 deaths per 1000 births in 2012
    1300 deaths per 1000 births in 2001

    WHAT THEY MEAN:

    As NATO’s International Security Assistance Force plans its withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer, the mood among American and other allied publics appears one more of disillusion than accomplishment. Understandable: A long mission is coming to an end, amid continuing violence and arguments between the U.S. and Afghan governments. A January release from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health provides a point of departure for a different and more positive perspective:

    The official inaugural ceremony of Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in the Darul Aman area took place on January 18, 2014 with the participation of H.E. Dr. Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health and H.E. Mr. Takao Makino, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. … Japan built the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital through its grant aide totalling USD 28 million. The hospital features an 80-bed facility for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as a laboratory with state-of-the-art diagnostic technology such as digital X-ray machines. The hospital will also provide health services for outpatients. In Afghanistan, communicable diseases are leading causes of death. In particular, TB remains a serious threat. Afghanistan is one of the 22 countries worst affected by TB. It is estimated that 70,000 new TB cases are found each year, resulting in 20,000 casualties annually.

    Here is a story is one of large challenges frankly admitted, generous aid from abroad, and problems once ignored now being slowly catalogued and addressed. It’s of course only one story, and the hospital’s future is yet to be seen. Figures compiled by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Telecommunications Union, and the WTO show that the hospital’s case is quite representative of Afghanistan’s national story:

    Economic Growth: Afghanistan’s GDP has quintupled in the last 13 years, growing at 8 percent a year – the highest rate in the world at face value since 2008 – and rising in actual dollar terms from about $4 billion in 2001 to $20 billion now. Per capita income has more than doubled, from $700 to $1580. This is a complex story – least-developed country growth is always volatile, and in the Afghan case reflects aid, opium trade, and military spending as well as reviving town economies and border trade – but the IMF’s economic figures for Afghanistan now are typical of least-developed countries, rather than of failed-state disasters.

    New Connections: According to the International Telecommunications Union’s database, no Afghans at all had Internet access or mobile phone subscriptions in 2001. The ITU is probably not quite right about this –Taliban officials certainly had mobile phones – but also likely gives a good picture of the isolation of Afghan life in 2001. As 2014 begins, the ITU reports 18 million Afghan mobile subscriptions and about 2 million Afghans using the Internet. Afghanistan’s trade with the world has grown less spectacularly than its communications, but nonetheless (setting aside opium) exports are up from $50 million to $370 million.

    Longer Lives: Afghan life expectancy at birth has risen from 43 in 2001 to 60 years in 2012, the largest gain in the world since 2000. This reflects, above all, a cut in the child mortality rate from 257 deaths per 1000 children under five annually to 71, and in the maternal mortality rate from 1900 deaths per 100,000 births to 460.

    All of this suggests a reasonably good story – and one reflected in most recent Asia Foundation public-opinion survey of Afghans, released in December. In this poll, 56 percent of the 9,300 respondents (in personal interviews) report the country on the ‘right track,’ up from 46 percent in 2011 and 52 percent in 2012; 74 percent view negotiations on political reconciliation favorably, and more than 70 percent feel their personal economic situation and the local availability of drinking water and education services have improved. Anxiety over violence and personal insecurity remain high – 19 percent report being threatened by political or criminal violence in the last year – as does unhappiness with corruption; on the other hand, views of national institutions are positive and provincial government slightly less so.

    Back now to the ISAF and the western publics. Disillusion is understandable: a 13-year deployment, 3417 lives lost, a high expense, and an ambiguous future outlook, in which growth, improved education, and better health balance against a Taliban resilient enough to mount episodic offensives and terror attacks in much of the country. But this said, there is strong ground to view Afghanistan with a sense of achievement. As the ISAF soldiers return home this summer, they will be leaving a country vastly better than the one they found.

    FURTHER READING:

    The International Security Assistance Force: http://www.isaf.nato.int/

    And the Afghan Ministry of Defense, with an apt ‘Under Construction’ notice on the ‘Present Status of the Afghan National Army’ page: http://mod.gov.af/en

    Views from -

    The Obama administration, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes testimony on the transition, 12/2013: http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/the-transition-in-afghanistan

    The Afghan public – The Asia Foundation’s 2013 survey of Afghan views on elections, violence, politics, public services, women’s education and more: http://asiafoundation.org/country/afghanistan/2013-poll.php

    Aid and support -

    Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, with updates on polio eradication and an Afghan-Japanese collaboration on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis: http://moph.gov.af/en

    New Zealand’s Bamiyan-based aid project, focused on education and health services: https://www.aid.govt.nz/where-we-work/afghanistan

    ISAF looks at a girls-school project: http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-news-list/new-attitude-emerging-toward-girls-literacy.html

    NGO GoodWeave on promoting traditional carpet and tapestry industry and fighting child labor: https://www.goodweave.org/index.php?pid=9401

    The diplomats -

    The Afghan Embassy in Washington: http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org/

    And the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: http://kabul.usembassy.gov/

    In Memoriam –

    Over the 13 years of the deployment, ISAF members count 3417 deaths among soldiers from 29 countries. They include 2309 American soldiers and civilian ISAF employees, 447 British, 158 Canadians, 86 French, 54 Germans, 48 Italians, 43 Danes, 40 Australians, 38 Poles, 34 Spanish, 27 Georgians, 25 Dutch, 21 Romanians, 14 Turks, 11 New Zealanders; 10 Norwegians; 9 Estonians; 7 Hungarians; 5 from the Czech Republic and Sweden; 3 from Latvia and Slovakia; 2 from Jordan, Finland, and Portugal; and 1 from Albania, Belgium, Lithuania, and South Korea. Another 10 are unspecified ‘NATO’ casualties, whose nationalities have not yet been released. ISAF’s laconic weekly casualty reports: http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/casualty-report/index.php

    An accounting by country: http://icasualties.org/oef/

    And Wall Street Journal investigators look at casualty rates among Afghan National Army and police – no precise statistics exist – and estimate about 9,800 deaths between 2007 and 2012: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324665604579081193199072318