The original version of this article appeared in The Economist, and is based on ECSP Report 14, Issue 1.
This is a story from Afghanistan which is not about fighting, bombs, or the Taliban. It even contains a modicum of good news. It is about demography.
Afghanistan has long been seen as a demographic outlier. In 2005-10, according to the United Nations Population Division, its fertility rate was 6.6 – the second-highest in the world after Niger (the fertility rate is the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime). The contrast with the rest of South Asia is extreme: fertility ranged from four (in Pakistan) to below three (in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka). Afghanistan’s sky-high fertility seems consistent with a view of the country as trapped in an exceptional and dysfunctional mode of development, marked by war, religious extremism, tribal honor codes, and the subjugation of women.
But this fertility rate was always a bit of a guess. The last census was taken in 1979, the year of the Soviet invasion. A whole generation has grown up since then, amid pervasive violence and uncertainty. It has been extremely hard to know how fertility has been changing.
Hence the significance of the Afghanistan Mortality Survey. Based on interviews with 48,000 women and girls aged 12 to 49, it is the nearest thing the country has had to a national census for 30 years (there were smaller surveys in 2003 and 2007-08, but their coverage was not national).
Continue reading on The Economist.
Read more about the Afghanistan Mortality Survey here on the blog with Elizabeth Leahy Madsen’s original posts here and here.
Photo Credit: “Celebrating International Women’s Day in Afghanistan,” courtesy of the U.K. Department for International Development.