Afghanistan is the world’s unhappiest country, and it was that way before the Taliban took power last August.
This is according to the World Happiness Report, which was released ahead of the UN-designated International Day of Happiness on Sunday.
Afghanistan was ranked last out of 149 countries surveyed in the annual report, with a happiness rate of only 2.5.
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Researchers ranked the countries after analysing data over three years. They looked at several categories, including gross domestic product per capita, social safety nets, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity of the population, and perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.
Afghanistan stacked up poorly in all six categories, a confounding result coming as it did before the Taliban arrival and despite 20 years of US and international investment.
The US alone spent $145 billion on development in Afghanistan since 2002, according to reports by the US special inspector general for Afghanistan.
Years of rampant corruption, increased poverty, a lack of jobs, a steady increase in the number of people forced below the poverty line, and erratic development have all combined to create a crushing situation, according to analyst Nasratullah Haqpal.
Most Afghans had high hopes after the Taliban were deposed and the US-led coalition declared victory in 2001.
“Unfortunately, the only focus was on the war, warlords, and corrupt politicians, people just got poorer and poorer, more disappointed and unhappy. That is why these 20 years of investment in Afghanistan collapsed in just 11 days,” he said, referring to the Taliban’s lightning blitz through the country before storming Kabul in mid-August.
The report warns that Afghanistan’s numbers might drop even further next year when it measures Afghans’ happiness level after the arrival of the Taliban. The economy is currently in free fall as the group struggles to transition from insurgency to governing.