Poverty and unemployment fuel the conflict according to 70% of Afghans, new Oxfam research shows

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 18 Nov 2009

   Media Release             

EMBARGO 0500 Wednesday 18 November 2009

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.

Oxfam Australia Acting Executive Director, James Ensor, said the report, “The Cost of War”, showed ordinary Afghans want peace.

 “People want to see the root causes of fighting dealt with. They identify poverty as driving the conflict. Australia, together with the rest of the international community, must provide aid that is more effective and better targeted to help kick-start the Afghan economy,” Mr Ensor said.

Afghans surveyed for the report identify government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by interference by neighbouring countries.

 The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country also 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 1979.

 Mr Ensor said the report shows the people of Afghanistan have suffered 30 years of unrelenting horror.

 “The prolonged conflict has devastated Afghan society. This damage can’t be repaired overnight,” Mr Ensor said.

 “The international community, including the Australian Government, must recognise this, and understand that Afghanistan needs more than military solutions. It needs support for agriculture, better infrastructure and improvements to schools and health care.

 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.”

 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.

 “This report shows that the Afghan people overwhelmingly want peace and the root causes of conflict addressed. For that to happen there must be stronger efforts to address corruption, and a focus on providing aid that is more effective and better targeted at what Afghan people need,” Mr Ensor said.

For more information contact:

In Australia: Kate Thwaites, katethwaites@oxfam.org.au +61 407 515 559

In Kabul: Ashley Jackson, Oxfam International, ajackson@oxfam.org.uk, +93 700 278 657

Ahmad Fawad, Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), sanayee@gmail.com, +93 774 662 266

 To access a copy of the report visit https://media.oxfam.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/OAus-TheCostofWar-1109-1.pdf


Notes to editors.


  1. This research was jointly designed and/or carried out by the following organizations: Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA), Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights (ADWR), Cooperation Centre for Afghanistan (CCA), Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW), Oxfam GB, Organization for Human Welfare (OHW), Sanayee Development Organization (SDO) and The Liaison Office (TLO). Ashley Jackson of Oxfam International is the author.
  2. Research was conducted in 14 provinces across Afghanistan from January to April 2009 with 704 randomly selected men and women. The research consisted of structured interviews and group discussions. The provinces were chosen from across the country: four in the north, three in the east, two in the south, one in the west and four in the centre. Most of the research sites were not experiencing active conflict when the research was conducted, although this has now changed due to the rapid deterioration in security.
  3. The majority of researchers were Afghans and from the same province being surveyed when possible.
  4. 48% of the respondents were female, 52% were male. The average age was 33.5 years old, with ages for the respondents ranging from 12 to 87.
  5. Afghan names used for quotes have been changed to protect their identities.
  6. When surveyed over the drivers of conflict:
  • 70% blamed poverty and unemployment
  • 48% blamed corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government
  • 36% blamed the Taliban
  • 25% blamed other countries, particularly neighbouring Pakistan and Iran