TOP News

World: Afghan families are selling their children so they can eat as the economy crumbles

The #1 Best Diet for a Flat Belly

  The #1 Best Diet for a Flat Belly If you want a lean midsection in no time, this is the very best diet for a flat belly, according to a registered dietitian.However, there's one goal practically everyone trying to lose weight has in common: getting a flat belly. While shaving off a few pounds can help reduce your risk of certain chronic ailments, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatty liver, losing inches off your waist may also lower your heart attack risk. In fact, a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that waist-to-hip ratio was a better predictor of heart attack risk than BMI.

Parwana Malik, a 9-year-old girl with dark eyes and rosy cheeks, giggles with her friends as they play jump rope in a dusty clearing.

Men sitting at a camp for internally displaecd people in Qala-i-Naw, Badghis province, on October 17. © Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images Men sitting at a camp for internally displaecd people in Qala-i-Naw, Badghis province, on October 17.

But Parwana's laughter disappears as she returns home, a small hut with dirt walls, where she's reminded of her fate: she's being sold to a stranger as a child bride.

The man who wants to buy Parwana says he's 55, but to her, he's "an old man" with white eyebrows and a thick white beard, she told CNN on October 22. She worries he will beat her and force her to work in his house.

Miles donations are providing flights for Afghan refugees

  Miles donations are providing flights for Afghan refugees A campaign that began with ordinary people donating frequent-flyer miles has raised enough in two months to provide 40,000 flights for refugees from Afghanistan, and organizers and the White House are looking to nearly double that figure. About 3,200 flights with donated miles have already carried Afghans from temporary housing at U.S. military bases to new homes around the United States, according to organizers. Corporations have made half of the contributions so far, mostly in tickets donated by airlines, including ones that ferried refugees from bases overseas to the U.S. under contracts with the federal government.

But her parents say they have no choice.

For four years, her family have lived in an Afghan displacement camp in northwestern Badghis province, surviving on humanitarian aid and menial work earning a few dollars a day. But life has only gotten harder since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan on August 15.

Zaiton, 4, plays with her brother at their home in Ghor province, Afghanistan. © CNN Zaiton, 4, plays with her brother at their home in Ghor province, Afghanistan.

As international aid dries up and the country's economy collapses, they're unable to afford basic necessities like food. Her father already sold her 12-year-old sister several months ago.

Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck along a road in Band Sabzak area in Badghis province, Afghanistan, on October 17. © Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck along a road in Band Sabzak area in Badghis province, Afghanistan, on October 17.

Parwana is one of many young Afghan girls sold into marriage as the country's humanitarian crisis deepens. Hunger has pushed some families to make heartbreaking decisions, especially as the brutal winter approaches.

Miles donations are providing flights for Afghan refugees

  Miles donations are providing flights for Afghan refugees A campaign that began with ordinary people donating frequent-flyer miles has raised enough in two months to provide 40,000 flights for refugees from Afghanistan, and organizers and the White House are looking to nearly double that figure. About 3,200 flights with donated miles have already carried Afghans from temporary housing at U.S. military bases to new homes around the United States, according to organizers. Corporations have made half of the contributions so far, mostly in tickets donated by airlines, including ones that ferried refugees from bases overseas to the U.S. under contracts with the federal government.

The parents gave CNN full access and permission to speak to the children and show their faces, because they say they cannot change the practice themselves.

"Day by day, the numbers are increasing of families selling their children," said Mohammad Naiem Nazem, a human rights activist in Badghis. "Lack of food, lack of work, the families feel they have to do this."

An impossible choice

Abdul Malik, Parwana's father, can't sleep at night. Ahead of the sale, he told CNN he's "broken" with guilt, shame and worry.

Parwana Malik, 9, and her father Abdul, in their home at a camp for internally displaced people in Afghanistan's Badghis province. © CNN Parwana Malik, 9, and her father Abdul, in their home at a camp for internally displaced people in Afghanistan's Badghis province.

He had tried to avoid selling her -- he traveled to the provincial capital city Qala-e-Naw to search unsuccessfully for work, even borrowing "lots of money" from relatives, and his wife resorted to begging other camp residents for food.

Why thousands of Afghans are still on US military bases

  Why thousands of Afghans are still on US military bases The US evacuated thousands from Afghanistan. Now, they are waiting for what comes next.He wore the outfit in Nimroz, after he delivered the last drips of intel to the Afghan Air Force on the Taliban’s position. He wore it as he drove toward Kabul on roads blasted by IEDs. He wore the outfit for the five days it took him to fight his way inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport. He wore it on his flight to Qatar, and then started to feel shy about the way he might smell on another crowded flight to Washington, DC. He wore it when he waited for hours in line for his first meal at Fort Pickett.

But he felt he had no choice if he wants to feed his family.

"We are eight family members," he told CNN. "I have to sell to keep other family members alive."

The money from Parwana's sale will only sustain the family for a few months, before Malik has to find another solution, he said.

Parwana said she hoped to change her parents' minds -- she had dreams of becoming a teacher, and didn't want to give up her education. But her pleas were futile.

On October 24, Qorban, the buyer, who only has one name, arrived at her home and handed 200,000 Afghanis (about $2,200) in the form of sheep, land and cash to Parwana's father.

Qorban didn't describe the sale as a marriage, saying he already had a wife who would look after Parwana as if she were one of their own children.

"(Parwana) was cheap, and her father was very poor and he needs money," Qorban said. "She will be working in my home. I won't beat her. I will treat her like a family member. I will be kind."

Parwana, dressed in a black head covering with a colorful floral garland around her neck, hid her face and whimpered as her weeping father told Qorban: "This is your bride. Please take care of her -- you are responsible for her now, please don't beat her."

Blast rocks Kabul after Afghan army urges civilians to leave Taliban-controlled areas of major city

  Blast rocks Kabul after Afghan army urges civilians to leave Taliban-controlled areas of major city A car bomb exploded near the home of Afghanistan's acting defense minister in Kabul on Tuesday evening, just hours after the Afghan army urged residents in another city to evacuate ahead of an operation against the Taliban. © HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP/AFP via Getty Images Afghan security personnel and Afghan militia fighting against Taliban, stand guard in Enjil district of Herat province on July 30, 2021.

Qorban agreed, then gripped Parwana's arm and led her out the door. As they left, her father watching by the doorway, Parwana dug her feet into the dirt and tried to pull away -- but it was no use. She was dragged to the waiting car, which slowly pulled away.

'Absolutely cataclysmic'

Since the Taliban's takeover, stories like Parwana's have been on the rise.

Though marrying off children under 15 is illegal nationwide, it has been commonly practiced for years, especially in more rural parts of Afghanistan. And it has only spread since August, driven by widespread hunger and desperation.

More than half the population is facing acute food insecurity, according to a United Nations report released this week. And more than 3 million children under age 5 face acute malnutrition in the coming months. All the while, food prices are soaring, banks are running out of money and workers are going unpaid.

A camp for internally displaced people in Qala-i-Naw, Badghis province, Afghanistan, on October 17. © Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images A camp for internally displaced people in Qala-i-Naw, Badghis province, Afghanistan, on October 17.

Nearly 677,000 people have been displaced this year due to fighting, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Many of them live in tents and huts in internal displacement camps like Parwana's family.

Trapped between the Taliban and bombs from the sky

  Trapped between the Taliban and bombs from the sky Afghans tell of corpses on the roads as they try to flee fighting for control of Lashkar Gah.The resident of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan is one of thousands trapped or fleeing for their lives as fighting for control of the city rages between militants and government forces.

"It's absolutely cataclysmic," said Heather Barr, associate director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch. "We don't have months or weeks to stem this emergency ... we are in the emergency already."

The problem is particularly acute for Afghan girls, who have stayed home and watched their brothers return to secondary school since the Taliban takeover. The Taliban said it is working on a plan to allow girls to return too, but have not said when that could happen or what conditions may be imposed.

The uncertainty combined with rising poverty has pushed many girls into the marriage market.

"As long as a girl is in school, her family is invested in her future," said Barr, from Human Rights Watch. "As soon as a girl falls out of education, then suddenly it becomes much more likely that she's going to be married off."

And once a girl is sold as a bride, her chances of continuing an education or pursuing an independent path are close to zero.

Instead, she faces a much darker future. Without access to contraception or reproductive health services, nearly 10% of Afghan girls aged 15 to 19 give birth every year, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Many are too young to be able to consent to sex and face complications in childbirth due to their underdeveloped bodies -- pregnancy-related mortality rates for girls aged 15 to 19 are more than double the rate for women aged 20 to 24, according to UNFPA.

'I don't want to leave my parents'

Magul, a 10-year-old girl in neighboring Ghor province, cries every day as she prepares to be sold to a 70-year-old man to settle her family's debts. Her parents had borrowed 200,000 Afghanis ($2,200) from a neighbor in their village -- but without a job or savings, they have no way of returning the money.

Afghan woman, daughter escape Kabul: Her plea to help family stuck behind

  Afghan woman, daughter escape Kabul: Her plea to help family stuck behind Sarina and her two-year-old daughter made a harrowing escape from Afghanistan in late August, but she’s pleading for help to save her at-risk family that's still behind. She said she came to terms with dying during her first attempt to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 19, surrounded by shouting, gunshots and beatings in a sea of thousands of people desperate to flee -- but she said she told herself if she could just get her two-year-old daughter out of the Taliban's Afghanistan, it would be OK.

The buyer had dragged Magul's father, Ibrahim, to a Taliban prison and threatened to have him jailed for failing to repay his debt. Ibrahim, who only goes by one name, said he promised the buyer he would pay in a month. But now time is up.

"I don't know what to do," Ibrahim said. "Even if I don't give him my daughters, he will take them."

Magul's mother, Gul Afroz, feels just as helpless. "I'm praying to God these bad days pass," she said.

Like Qorban, the buyer claimed he would not mistreat Magul and that she would simply help with cooking and cleaning at his home. But the reassurances ring hollow in the face of his threats against Magul's family.

"I really don't want him. If they make me go, I will kill myself," Magul said, sobbing as she sat on the floor of her home. "I don't want to leave my parents."

It's a similar situation for a nine-member family in Ghor province that is selling two daughters aged 4 and 9. The father has no job, like most in the displacement camp -- but he faces even tougher odds with a disability.

He is prepared to sell the girls for 100,000 Afghanis (about $1,100) each. Zaiton, the 4-year-old, with wispy bangs and large brown eyes, said she knows why this is happening: "Because we are a poor family and we don't have food to eat."

Their grandmother, Rokhshana, is distraught.

"If we have food and there is someone to help us, we would never do this," Rokhshana said through tears. "We don't have any choice."

International funding dried up

Local Taliban leaders in Badghis say they plan to distribute food to stop families selling their daughters. "Once we implement this plan, if they continue to sell their kids we will put them in jail," said Mawlawai Jalaludin, a spokesperson from the Taliban's Justice Department, without elaborating.

But the problem stretches beyond just Badghis. And as winter approaches, both the Taliban and humanitarian groups are pleading for more aid, hoping it could stem the rise in child marriages.

Afghanistan war vet helps Afghan refugees resettle in US

  Afghanistan war vet helps Afghan refugees resettle in US THORNTON, Colo. (AP) — Navy veteran Jordon Daniel was busy when the United States pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan at the end of August. More than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) and a world away, he and a group of fellow veterans were moving furniture, folding towels and sorting silverware in drawers during a hot, dry summer day in the Denver area. Their mission: To furnish homes for Afghan refugees seeking safety in the United States. Daniel had just finished furnishing the last of three or four homes for refugees that day when he received an alert on his cellphone that the final U.S. military aircraft had departed Kabul after two decades of war.

The Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan as the United States and its allies withdrew prompted the international community to halt development assistance -- money that had been vital in propping up the country's economy and key services.

Countries and multilateral institutions have been reluctant to renew pledges for fear of appearing to legitimize the Taliban as Afghanistan's leaders.

With the country's economy close to collapse, UN donors pledged more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid in September, of which $606 million would meet Afghans' most pressing needs. But less than half those pledged funds have been received, with some member states who have not yet paid, according to a UNOCHA spokesperson.

Several of the families and experts CNN spoke with expressed frustration at the shortage of aid during the country's direst hour.

Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, head of office at UNOCHA, emphasized that humanitarian aid workers were still on the ground, providing relief and supporting hospitals -- but it's not enough.

"By not releasing the (development) funds that they are holding from the Taliban government, it's the vulnerable, it's the poor, it's these young girls who are suffering," Carlsen said.

Barr and Carlsen acknowledged the need for world leaders to hold the Taliban accountable for human rights violations -- but they warned the longer Afghanistan goes without development assistance or injected liquidity, the more families face death by starvation, and the more girls are likely to be sold.

The Taliban has also appealed for aid. "The Taliban is asking aid agencies to come back to Afghanistan and help these people," said one Taliban director of an internal displacement camp in Ghor province. "I'm requesting the international community and aid agencies, before the winter comes, to please come and help."

Back in the Afghan displacement camp in Badghis province, Malik is under no illusions about what the sale means for his daughter -- or what the grim situation means for his family's future.

Qorban said he will use his daughter as a worker not a bride, but Malik knows he has no control over what happens to her now.

"The old man told me, 'I'm paying for the girl. It's none of your business what I'm doing with her ... that's my business,'" Malik told CNN.

The ominous warning weighs heavily on him as he considers the bleak days ahead. The cold is creeping in, and snow has already begun coating parts of the country. When the money from Parwana's sale runs out, he will be back at square one -- with three daughters and a son still at home to support.

"As I can see, we don't have a future -- our future is destroyed," he said. "I will have to sell another daughter if my financial situation doesn't improve -- probably the 2-year-old."

Afghanistan war vet helps Afghan refugees resettle in US .
THORNTON, Colo. (AP) — Navy veteran Jordon Daniel was busy when the United States pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan at the end of August. More than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) and a world away, he and a group of fellow veterans were moving furniture, folding towels and sorting silverware in drawers during a hot, dry summer day in the Denver area. Their mission: To furnish homes for Afghan refugees seeking safety in the United States. Daniel had just finished furnishing the last of three or four homes for refugees that day when he received an alert on his cellphone that the final U.S. military aircraft had departed Kabul after two decades of war.

See also