gdunkel at gdunkel at
Tue Feb 18 21:02:13 MST 2003

On 17 Feb 03, at 22:04, George Snedeker wrote:

> has anyone come across a good article that discusses what the conditions in
> Afghanistan are today? what is life really like now that the Taliban are
> gone? is the country being run by Warlords again? how can we evaluate the
> "improvement" in the lives of women under the new pro-American government?

Here is a short piece I wrote in January, which was not published.  It is
based on some digging thru internet sources.  It answers some of the
questions you raised.  If you need sources, I can send them.


Desperate Conditions in Afghanistan
by G. Dunkel

Relief workers estimate that a half a million Afghanis are homeless,
living in bombed-out buildings, often without roofs, or tents with mud
piled up along the sides to keep out drafts.  According to a report on
Iranian radio (transcribed by the BBC, Dec. 18, 2002) 75,000
residents of Kabul suffer from tuberculosis;  700 are being treated.

The Iranian report goes on to say that Afghanistan is the only country
in the world where hundreds of thousands of people suffer from
tuberculosis, a virulent and deadly disease, especially under conditions
of extreme poverty.

Kabul has lost 78,000 houses in the fighting since 1973.  None of
them were repaired in 2002. Its sewers are overflowing, its narrow
streets gridlocked and choked with a smog that combines auto
exhaust, wood smoke and dried excrement.

Three years of drought have devastated much of the country,
particularly in the south. Rivers and reservoirs have run dry. Three-
quarters of the country's livestock has died. War and combat have
just made this devastation more extensive and more complete.  For
example, irrigation systems have been blown up and damaged beyond
use and roads completely destroyed.

The seven million land mines left in the country are still deadly.  For
example, doctors in an emergency hospital near the Bagram air base
report that they treat at least one land mine victim a day;  in most of
Afghanistan emergency treatment is not available.

The NGOs dealing with land mines feel that it will take several
thousand workers at least a decade and cost $500 million to dispose
of most of them.

Afghanistan does not have a banking system and the central
government raises almost no revenue.  The major income sources in
the country -- mining and selling gems, producing opium -- go through
local warlords or smugglers.

Almost nobody has a steady job, though tens of thousands could be
employed labor-intensive and much needed road and irrigation
projects. The government hopes to rebuild 6,000 km (3,750 miles) of
roads over the next three years, employing tens of thousands of
workers at $2 day.

The government is flat broke. International donors say $1.8 billion has
poured into Afghanistan in the past year. "When we heard this, it was
a shock to the government, to the people, even to the UN," said
Yusuf Pashtun, the housing minister.

Only $80 million reached the government. The rest went to
administrative costs and emergency food aid.

The U.S., according to serious estimates, has spent about $1 billion a
month in Afghanistan, since the Taliban were defeated.  About $25
million goes for non-military purposes, the rest for hunting the Taliban
and el Qaeda along the Pakistan border.


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