Afghans are forced to sell their young daughters into marriage due to a lack of food.

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Afghans are forced to sell their young daughters into marriage due to a lack of food.

Fahima has cried a lot since her husband married off their two young girls to survive the drought in western Afghanistan.

Faristeh, six, and Shokriya, 18 months, sit by her side in a mud-brick and tarpaulin shelter for displaced families, oblivious to the bargain.

“My husband told me that if we don’t give our girls away, we will all die because we won’t be able to eat,” Fahima said of the decision that thousands of Afghan families are facing.

“I feel horrible about selling my girls for cash.”

The bride price for the oldest was $3,350, and for the toddler it was $2,800, to be paid in installments over several years until they were ready to join their new families, their prospective spouses still minors.

Child marriage has been practiced in Afghanistan for generations, but war and poverty caused by climate change have forced many families to make arrangements earlier and earlier in the lives of their daughters.

Boys’ parents can strike a tougher bargain and acquire younger girls by spreading the payments out.

More than half of Afghanistan’s population, or 22.8 million people, would face acute food insecurity starting in November, according to the World Food Program.

There is shame and anguish in Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis’ western province, which is one of the areas hardest hit by the drought.

According to village and displaced people’s camp authorities, the number of young girls being betrothed began to climb during a 2018 famine and exploded this year when the rains failed yet again.

AFP journalists swiftly discovered more than a dozen families who felt obliged to sell their daughters into marriage among the farmers displaced from their farms.

Sabehreh, Fahima’s 25-year-old camp neighbor, racked up a charge at a grocer’s shop to feed her family. If they did not repay him, the business owner threatened to put them in jail.

To pay off the debt, the family agreed that Zakereh, their three-year-old daughter, would marry Zabiuallah, the grocer’s four-year-old son.

The shopkeeper has chosen to wait until the pair are older before taking control of the girl’s upbringing, so the infants are unaware of their eventual fate.

“I’m sorry I did that, but we didn’t have anything to eat or drink,” Sabehreh told AFP.

“If this keeps up, we’ll have to give up our three-month-old,” she murmured as the first shivers of winter crept into the desolate camp.

Gul Bibi, a neighbor, verified that many families in the camp had resorted to child labor. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

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