The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Afghanistan:
- Gender Inequality in Education
When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, women faced substantial discrimination. Many of their rights were stifled, including their ability to receive an education. According to the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, 90 percent of women throughout Afghanistan have been sexually harassed on the streets. This harassment can create so much fear that they drop out of school to be safe. Child marriage also poses a significant threat to female education in Afghanistan. Almost one-third of girls are married before they turn 18. Afghanistan can be a difficult place for a woman to receive an education due to it being a highly dangerous country for women.
- Water Crisis
Everyone in the world knows about the war in Afghanistan but few know about the water crisis going on in the country. Afghanistan has a population of 29 million, with 79% of the population living in rural areas. Only 27% of its population has access to improved water sources, and it goes down to 20% in rural areas, the lowest percentage in the world. The numbers get even worse when you look at the percentage of people with access to improved sanitation facilities. With the numbers at 5% nationwide, and only 1% in rural areas, Afghanistan again ranks the worst in the world. In Kabul, with a population of 6 million, 80% of the people lack access to safe drinking water, and 95% lack access to improved sanitation facilities. Because Afghans have no access to sanitation facilities, 20% of the population (mostly rural) practices open defecation, often in the rivers they drink out of. In Afghanistan, 25% of deaths among children under 5 are directly attributed to contaminated water and bad sanitation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently called the health status in Afghanistan one of the worst in the world. Most of the common diseases in Afghanistan are communicable, and epidemics are happening more frequently than in the past. Tuberculosis plagues nearly 35 percent of Afghanistan’s citizens. This respiratory disease can be caused by overcrowding, cold-conditions and can be transmitted through the use of a temporary shelter. Based on an age-standardized death rate taken in 2014, coronary heart disease ranks number one of the top diseases in Afghanistan taking thousands of lives each year and accounting for a little more than 9 percent of all the deaths in Afghanistan. Early treatment and proper diagnosis is needed to cure tuberculosis and therefore upwards of 13,000 Afghans die each year from the preventable diseases in Afghanistan.
- Child Marriages
UNICEF’s available data suggests at least 15 percent of all Afghan girls are married off by their families before they are 16. About one-third of all Afghan girls are married by the time they turn 18 — the legal definition of a child under the Child Protection Act signed into law by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. UNICEF has recently been registering about 200 Afghan boys each month, aged 11 to 17, as they return to Herat Province from Iran where they’ve been working to help support their families. Nearly half say they’ve already been engaged for an arranged marriage and have been working in Iran to earn the dowry their family must pay to their bride’s father.
There are no official numbers on how many Afghans die of pollution-related disorders. But the research group State of Global Air said that in 2017, more than 26,000 deaths could be linked to air pollution. In comparison, 3,483 civilians were killed that year in the Afghan war, the United Nations reports. Kabul has become one of the most polluted cities in the world. It rates at the top of the list among other polluted capitals such as India’s New Delhi or Beijing, China. Kabul is home to about 6 million people. On many days, a mix of smog and smoke lies over the city. In some cases, families burn whatever they can to keep warm in cold weather. The air in their own homes then poisons them. Household pollution was partly to blame for at least 19,400 of Kabul’s deaths in 2017, the State of Global Air study found.