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U.N. report on poverty in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 31 (UPI) -- Rights abuses and corruption exacerbate poverty in Afghanistan, where 36 percent of the population lives in "absolute poverty," says a U.N. report.

The report released in Geneva by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said 9 million Afghans or 36 percent of the population "are believed to live in absolute poverty and a further 37 percent live only slightly above the poverty line" despite about $35 billion of outside aid sent to the country between 2002 and 2009.

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"Poverty actually kills more Afghans than those who die as a direct result of the armed conflict," Norah Niland, the agency's representative in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul Tuesday, the U.N. News reported on its Web site.

She blamed the poverty on "a massive human rights deficit."

"The deficit includes widespread impunity and inadequate investment in, and attention to, human rights," she said.

"Patronage, corruption, impunity and over-emphasis on short-term goals rather than targeted long-term development are exacerbating a situation of dire poverty."

The report urged the poor be allowed to take part in decisions affecting their lives.

The report said Afghanistan has the world's second-highest maternal mortality rate, the third-highest child mortality rate and that only 23 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water. It said only 24 percent of Afghans above the age of 15 can read and write.

The report was based on a survey among the poorest communities in 14 provinces and interviews of experts at the local and national level.

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