Poverty and Unemployment Fuel the Conflict According to 70% of Afghans, New Oxfam Research Shows

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

In Kabul: Ashley Jackson, Oxfam International, ajackson@oxfam.org.uk, +93 700 278 657, OR Ahmad Fawad, Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), sanayee@gmail.com, +93 774 662 266

In the UK: Sean Kenny, skenny@oxfam.orgl.uk, +44 7766 443 506

Poverty and Unemployment Fuel the Conflict According to 70% of Afghans, New Oxfam Research Shows

Afghans want peace and an end to conflict

LONDON - Seventy per cent of
Afghans surveyed see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of the
conflict in their country, according to new research by international
aid agency Oxfam and a group of Afghan organisations. Ordinary Afghans
blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important
factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by
interference by neighboring countries.

The Cost of War

The research is contained in Oxfam's new joint report, "The Cost of War",
which paints a grim picture of a country brought to its knees by 30
years of fighting. The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country
reveals:

  • one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
  • one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979;
  • three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.

Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International, said: "The
people of Afghanistan have suffered 30 years of unrelenting horror. In
that time millions have been killed and millions more have fled their
homes. Those who have committed the most terrible abuses have enjoyed
impunity rather than faced justice. Afghan society has been devastated.

"Repairing this damage can't be done overnight. It will take a long
time for the economic, social and psychological scars to heal. The
international community has to recognise this, and to understand that
Afghanistan needs more than military solutions. It needs support for
agriculture, better infrastructure and schools and health services must
improve.

A plea for peace

Ordinary Afghans want peace and an end to conflict,
and they want to see the root causes of fighting dealt with. Poverty is
driving the conflict. One man told us: ‘If people are jobless they are
capable of anything." The international community must bear his words
in mind and provide more effective aid to help kick-start the Afghan
economy.

Looking over the 30 years of conflict since the Soviets invaded in
1979, one in ten people questioned had been imprisoned at least once. One in five (21%) were tortured, either in jail or by the various armed groups. A third of those tortured were women. Just 1% reported receiving any form of compensation or apology for the harm done to them.

Azim Mohammad from Nangarhar said: "What do you think the effect
that two million Afghans martyred, seventy per cent of Afghanistan
destroyed and our economy eliminated has had on us? Half our people
have been driven mad. A man who is thirty or forty years old looks like
he is seventy. We always live in fear. We are not secure anywhere in
Afghanistan."

There was a widespread feeling amongst all the participants that
poverty, corruption, injustice and civilian suffering have fuelled the
spread of insecurity.

What government can do

As part of the research, Afghans were asked to give their
suggestions to the politicians, military forces, insurgent groups and
the international community. They wanted the establishment of the rule of law at all levels, a crackdown on corruption and an end to the culture of impunity.

Many thought foreign aid from governments does not currently reach
the people who need it most, and wanted to see this money improve
health and education services and help create jobs.

There was a strong sense that both sides on the conflict must prioritize the safety of Afghan civilians. There have been 2,021 civilian casualties up until October this year.

Hobbs said: "The Afghans' desire that their safety should be
paramount means that all sides must stop targeting civilians. The
international forces should tighten their restrictions on air strikes
and night raids. They must transparently investigate all allegations of
harm to civilians and provide appropriate forms of redress.

"Afghans surveyed also felt that the Taliban and other insurgents
should immediately stop targeting civilians and stop taking refuge in
civilian areas, which puts normal Afghans on the front lines of the
conflict."

Read more

Download the report: The Cost of War, Afghan Experience of Conflict, 1978- 2009.

The Cost of War, a moving story in pictures

Oxfam's emergency work in Afghanistan

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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