TORONTO – Months after the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15, aid organizations are again sounding the alarm over rising levels of poverty and hunger in Afghanistan, with young girls being sold into child marriages so their families can survive .
The United Nations says 22 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million residents are already near famine and another 36 percent face acute food insecurity because they can’t afford food.
one in statement of the monthUNICEF said it was “deeply concerned” by reports that child marriage is on the rise in Afghanistan, as families sell their young girls to provide food.
“We have received credible reports of families offering daughters up to the age of 20 days for future marriages in return for dowry,” the statement said.
UNICEF said that even before the Taliban takeover, the organization’s partners had registered 183 child marriages and 10 cases of child selling from 2018 to 2019 in Herat and Baghdis provinces alone. The age of the children is said to be between six months and 17 years.
UNICEF estimates that 28 percent of Afghan women aged 15 to 49 were married before the age of 18.
“Since most teenage girls are still not allowed to go back to school, the risk of child marriage is even greater now. Education is often the best protection against negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage and child labor,” the statement continues.
Although it is illegal in Afghanistan to marry children under the age of 15, it is a common practice, especially in rural areas. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), about 10 percent of Afghan girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year because of lack of access to contraception or reproductive health services.
UNFPA says complications from childbirth due to underdeveloped bodies, lack of health care and the inability to consent to sex mean that pregnancy-related mortality is higher for girls ages 15 to 19 than for women ages 20 to 24. is more than twice as high.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the Taliban takeover and the ensuing winter have made it extremely difficult for families to survive. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, fighting has displaced about 677,000 people in 2021. Many of them live in tents or temporary shelters in internal displacement camps.
International funding, which was once a large part of the Afghan government’s budget, has dried up as much of the world does not recognize the Taliban’s rule. In addition, Afghanistan’s economy is projected to shrink 40 percent in the past three months.
The United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organization and UNICEF are the three main aid organizations through which donors are raising funds to avoid ending up in Taliban coffers.
The United Nations World Food Programme, which is providing direct cash aid and food to families, provided assistance to 9 million people in 2020. That number rose to about 14 million in 2021, with the agency saying it would need $220 million a month to reach. According to The Associated Press, 23 million people in 2022.
With files from the Associated Press and CNN