Each year Save the Children publishes a report for Mother’s Day on the state of women and children in countries around the world. It’s a valuable and sobering view that may surprise many. Norway led in conditions this year, the US comes in at 28th – and Afghanistan is at the very bottom of the list, even compared to other “least developed” nations.

Here are the facts:
– 1 out of every 8 Afghan women will die in childbirth.

– The average life expectency for an Afghan woman is 44.

– 259 out of every 1,000 live births end in death by age 5.

– 39% of children are moderately or severely underweight for age.

– Only 22% of Afghans have access to clean water.

Or as they summarize the situation in the report:

The contrast between the top-ranked country, Norway, and the lowest-ranked country, Afghanistan, is striking. Skilled health personnel are present at virtually every birth in Norway, while only 14 percent of births are attended in Afghanistan. A typical Norwegian woman has over 18 years of formal education and will live to be 83 years old, 82 percent are using some modern method of contraception, and only 1 in 132 will lose a child before his or her fifth birthday. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Afghanistan, a typical woman has just over 4 years of education and will live to be only 44. Sixteen percent of women are using modern contraception, and more than 1 child in 4 dies before his or her fifth birthday. At this rate, every mother in Afghanistan is likely to suffer the loss of a child.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that:

Shootings of Afghan civilians by American and NATO convoys and at military checkpoints have spiked sharply this year…

At least 28 Afghans have been killed and 43 wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings this year — 42 percent of total civilian deaths and injuries and the largest overall source of casualties at the hands of American and NATO troops, according to statistics kept by the military.

In the same period last year, 8 Afghans were killed and 29 wounded in similar episodes. For all of 2009, 36 Afghan civilians were killed in the so-called escalation of force incidents by Western and Afghan troops, according to the United Nations…

Since last summer, none of the Afghans killed or wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings had weapons that would have posed a danger for troops who killed them, commanders said.

And even the Afghan surge supporting ICOS reports, based on interviews with 400 men in Marjah, that:

…Operation Moshtarak has contributed to high levels of anger among local Afghan: 61% of those interviewed feel more negative about NATO forces than before the military offensive. In other words, the objective of winning “hearts and minds” – one of the fundamental tenets of the new counter-insurgency strategy – was not met…

Of those interviewed, 95% believe more young Afghans have joined the Taliban in the last year. 78% of the respondents were often or always angry, and 45% of those stated they were angry at the NATO occupation, civilian casualties and night raids…

59% of those interviewed believed the Taliban will return to Marjah after the Operation. Alarmingly, 67% did not support a strong NATO-ISAF presence in their province and 71% stated they wanted the NATO forces to leave.

Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that the occupying Afghanistan is not working – and is not improving the conditions of Afghan women and children? With a foreign policy based on occupation rather than aid to the most vulnerable, surging special forces instead of midwives and water treatment, we get it all wrong. Or as Khan Mohammed, a car dealer in Kandahar says:

“More foreign troops means more attacks and more dead civilians,” said Khan Mohammad, a car dealer.

“I think the government and international troops, especially Americans, should open their eyes and realise they can’t beat the Taliban through military means,” he said.



Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com