Afghanistan has been engulfed in conflict for more than 30 years.
A succession of civil wars and insurgencies have wrecked the country‟s infrastructure, stunted its development and caused massive human suffering.
Over 10,000 people were killed by fighting in 2010, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
The United Nations said 20 percent of Afghanistan's 398 districts were inaccessible to humanitarian workers in 2009 due to security concerns.
At the end of 2010, about three million people – over 10% of the population – were either internally displaced or living in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.
A third of the country‟s 29 million population lives in extreme poverty.
Only one in four Afghans can read and write.
Frequent natural disasters, including drought, flooding and waves of extreme winter cold, have added to the misery caused by a generation of conflict.
Illegal drugs have added to the misery. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for making heroin. Most of the opium is grown in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Farah. Several hundred thousand Afghans are addicted to narcotics.
Unofficial taxes imposed on the drugs trade by armed factions help to pay for the continuation of conflict. In 2008, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist movement derived an annual income of up to $450 million from its control of opium production.