Desperate for cash, Afghan families are selling young daughters

Desperate for cash, Afghan families are selling young daughters into marriage
“He will just take her hand and take her away from me,” one father said of his 8-year-old. “He will take her away and say, ‘She’s ours now.’”

SHAIDAI, Afghanistan — Bashful, with long locks of rust-colored hair dyed with henna, Benazir fidgets with a handful of gravel when the topic of her marriage comes up.

She looks down at the ground and buries her head in her knees when asked if she knows she’s been promised to another family to marry one of their sons.

Her father says he will receive the equivalent of $2,000 for Benazir, but he hasn’t explained the details to her or what’s expected of her. She’s too young to understand, he says.

Benazir is 8 years old.

It is traditional for families here to pay a dowry to a bride’s family for a marriage, but it is extreme to arrange a marriage for a child so young. And the economic collapse following the Taliban’s takeover in August has forced already poor families to make desperate choices.

Eight year old Benazir, second right, walks with her father in Herat, Afghanistan. NBC

The days are filled with hardships for children here in Shaidai, a desert community on the mountainous edge of Herat in western Afghanistan.

Children like Benazir and her siblings beg on the streets, or collect garbage to heat their simple mud homes, because they don’t have enough money for wood.

Her father, Murad Khan, looks much older than his 55 years — his face worn with worry. A day laborer who hasn’t found work in months and with eight children to feed, his decision to sell Benazir to marriage at such a young age comes down to a cold calculation.

“We are 10 people in the family. I’m trying to keep 10 alive by sacrificing one,” he said in Pashto.

Khan said the arrangement is for Benazir to be married to a boy from a family in Iran when she reaches puberty. He hasn’t received the money yet for her dowry, and said as soon as he does, Benazir will be taken away by the man who bought her.

The money he makes from selling Saliha will help pay that all back and feed her four siblings.

It was a soul-wrenching decision, he says.

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“Your children are a piece of your heart. If I wasn’t forced to do this, why would I do it?” he says.

Afghanistan was a poor country before the Taliban’s takeover, propped up by foreign aid. According to the World Bank, about 75 percent of public finances were supplied by grants from the United States and other countries

When the U.S. military withdrew, and the hard-line Islamist Taliban government took over, a lot of that aid money was frozen. Salaries dried up and the flow of cash came to an abrupt halt, creating a humanitarian crisis.

And this looks set to get worse as the crisis spirals, with more than half of the population of Afghanistan now facing hunger and 3.2 million children suffering from malnutrition, according to the United Nations World Food Program.

The agency said it has never seen this many people facing emergency levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan, with all 34 provinces impacted.

In the relatively wealthy province of Herat in western Afghanistan, an emergency feeding center is running out of beds.

The Doctors Without Borders-run facility at the Herat Regional Hospital treats the most severely malnourished babies, like tiny Farzana, who at 8 months old weighs just 6 ½ pounds. She is one of 75 babies being cared for here.

Her father is a butcher, but his business has collapsed so badly, he couldn’t keep affording to feed his family.

Farzana lies without making a sound, a tiny, pale bone-thin arm sticking out and her wide eyes don’t blink.

“What we are seeing is very small kids, which are not well breastfed by the mothers because the mothers are all so malnourished, they can’t produce enough breast milk to feed them,” said Gaia Giletta, the head nurse for pediatrics with Doctors Without Borders at the feeding center.

Because of disruptions to health care and aid agencies across the region, Giletta said, many kids are receiving no primary care. For many who arrive, it is already too late, with one child dying nearly every day here.

Another baby at the center, Ali, is small and pale, barely mustering up energy to cry. His mother, Smita Umar, was herself malnourished, so Ali was born too weak to suckle. At 4 months old, he’s already spent a total of three months at the center.

“My husband is a house painter,” Umar said. “But he sold his tools so we could feed the baby. Things have got worse since the Taliban came. What little we had went to zero.”

Richard Engel, Gabe Joselow and Ahmed Mengli reported from Herat. Yuliya Talmazan from London–pelicula-completa–hd-1080p-—fate-grand-order-the-grand-temple-of-time-20211080püm-film-türkçe-dubl-tickets-82765ürkçe-dublaj-1080p-hd-tickets-82767üm-film-tickets-82768ñol-pel-tickets-82769▷-assistir-eternos【2021】-dublado-filme-onl-tickets-82770гледам-вечните-2021-пълен-филм-онлайн-sub-tickets-82771čnici-2021-cijeli-film-s-hrvat-tickets-82772終局特異点-冠位時間神殿ソロモン-2021-线上看-tickets-82718終局特異点-冠位時間神殿ソロモン-線上看-t-tickets-82720金錢男孩-2021-線上看-完整版電影中文字幕-高清电影-tickets-82722金錢男孩-2021-線上看-完整版電影-字幕台湾-hd-1080p-tickets-82723梅艷芳-2021-線上看-完整版電影中文字幕-tickets-82726梅艷芳-2021-線上看-完整版電影字幕台湾-hd-1080p-tickets-82727無星夜的詠嘆調2021線上看-完整版電影中文字幕-ticket-82729無星夜的詠嘆調2021線上看-完整版電影字幕台湾-hd-108-tickets-82730無星夜的詠嘆調-2021-完整版小鴨—-線上看-hd-tick-tickets-82742蜘蛛人:無家日▷完整版免費高清-spider-man-no-way-home-tic-tickets-82779扬名立万-2021-be-somebody-完整版本-hd-tickets-82774鴨-online-扬名立万-2021-線上看-完整版《hd-1080p》-ticke-tickets-82775线上看-扬名立万-2021-完整版本-tickets-82776扬名立万-流線上看-2021-–-be-somebody-完整版【hd-tickets-82777【扬名立万-tw-2021】-線上看小鴨完整版-tickets-82778《扬名立万-2021》-be-somebody線上看小鴨完整版-tickets-82780扬名立万(2021)电影在线电影小鸭-1080p-全高清-tickets-82781『tw電影』-扬名立万-be-somebody-完整版觀看電影在線小鴨-2021-h-tickets-82782扬名立万-be-somebody-完整版-2021-在線觀看完整版-‒-線上看-附字-tickets-82784扬名立万-be-somebody▷-線上看完整版-2021-电影在线-hd-1080-tickets-82785電影-月老扬名立万【小鴨-2021】-tickets-82786▷【扬名立万】▷線上看完整版-2021-在线观看hd-zh-tickets-82787▷扬名立万-2021-在線觀看完整版電影-tickets-82788扬名立万-線上看-【1080p】-tickets-82789

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