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Inside Afghanistan: Record Numbers Struggle to Afford Basics

Inside Afghanistan: Record Numbers Struggle to Afford Basics

Story Highlights

  • 57% of Afghans report having struggled to afford food in the past year
  • In some regions, two in three have struggled to afford food
  • 90% of Afghans report that it's difficult to get by on household income

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Afghans not only are facing challenges in regard to their safety and security as the country's presidential election nears, but they also are struggling more than ever to afford the basics such as food and shelter.

Gallup surveys in Afghanistan over the past decade highlight the great need for action from incoming leadership.

Quick Summary: Severe drought conditions over the past several years have set back agriculture in Afghanistan, affecting the country's economy as well as residents' food security. Afghanistan's GDP is still on the positive side of the ledger, but much larger growth is needed to help the more than half of Afghans who are living below the poverty line.

According to World Bank Afghanistan Country Director Henry Kerali, "Afghanistan faces challenges of insecurity, election-related political uncertainty, potential declines in international security support, in addition to the drought in 2018. Any one of these shocks would normally generate strong headwinds to growth. Afghanistan has faced all of these concurrently."

Afghans Struggling to Afford Food Hits New High: While large swaths of Afghanistan's population have struggled to afford food over the past decade, the percentage crossed the majority threshold for the first time in 2018. Nearly six in 10 Afghans say they have struggled to afford food at times in the past year.

Line graph. Afghans' reports of struggle to afford food in the past year, 2008 to 2018.

With nearly two-thirds of the country's provinces suffering from major droughts, food insecurity has soared. Inability to afford food is particularly acute in the Northern, North-Eastern and South-Western regions, where about two in three residents report having had difficulty affording food in the past year. These regions include the provinces of Balkh, Faryab, Jowzjan, Kunduz, Takhar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Nimroz, which are among the provinces that have been hit hardest by droughts.

Heat map. The percentages of Afghans who struggled to afford food by region.

Meanwhile, half of Afghans (50%) say there have been times in the past year when they have struggled to afford adequate shelter.

Fewer Than One in 10 Afghans "Getting by" on Income: No Afghans say they are "living comfortably" and just 9% say they are "getting by" on their present household income. The vast majority of Afghans say they are "finding it difficult" (55%) or "finding it very difficult" (35%) to get by on their household income. The combined 90% of Afghans reporting such financial hardship is the highest on record for Afghanistan -- and was the highest in the world last year.

Line Graph. Afghans' feelings about their present household income, 2008 to 2018.

Implications: If the scheduled presidential election actually takes place in September, the next leader of Afghanistan has an uphill battle ahead of him in making the economy work for the country's residents, who struggle to make ends meet more than any other population in the world. Though Afghanistan's economy is showing some growth, much more growth is needed to address the dire straits residents report being in.

The incoming president must also take the reins of regional negotiations over water conflicts with neighboring countries, as the droughts the country has endured have significantly affected food production and affordability. The big question that remains is whether the new president will be taken seriously by neighboring countries and water control stakeholders who have largely left Afghanistan out of diplomatic talks on the issue.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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