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Food & Hunger

Mum ‘Had No Choice’ But to Sell 6-Year-Old Daughter for £55 Amid Afghanistan’s Severe Food Crisis

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Over 10 million people in Afghanistan are at risk of severe food insecurity after one of the country’s worst droughts ever. It’s vital the international community steps in to help — otherwise stories of extreme desperation like these will certainly become more commonplace. Take action here to support people affected by drought.

In a refugee camp outside Herat, Afghanistan, Mamareen arranged to sell her six-year-old daughter, Akila, for £2,350.

According to CNN, Mamareen lost her husband to war, her home to the changing climate, and now her daughter — just so her family could hope to avoid starvation after one of the worst droughts the country has ever faced.

Mamareen has so far received £55 for Akila — a transaction born from the total desperation for her family to survive.

Take Action: Ask World Leaders to Help Millions of Southern Africans Suffering Through Drought

Mamareen sold Akila to a man called Najmuddin so she the young girl could marry his 10-year-old son, Sher Agha. Najmuddin also lives in the refugee camp after the drought killed his crops and livestock.

"I fled my village with my three children because of severe drought," Mamareen told CNN. "I came here thinking that I will receive some assistance, but I got nothing... I had no money, no food and no breadwinner."

"[Akila] doesn't know that I have sold her,” Mamareen added. “How would she know? She is a child. But I had no other choice. Whether in tears or laughter, she will have to go. Who would sell a piece of her heart unless they really have to?"

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Afghan law dictates that women who enter into marriage require a dowry (payment), and so trading occurs frequently. In fact, Najmuddin told CNN that he wanted to help Mamareen.

"Her family didn't have anything to eat. They were hungry," he said. "I know I am also poor, but I am sure I can pay it off slowly... in two to three years."

Between now and February, it’s expected that 10.6 million people — almost half the total rural population of Afghanistan — will be under threat from serious food insecurity in the country, according to a new study from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)

The report concluded that the “major livelihood crisis” was caused primarily by “severe drought,” but acknowledged that years of conflict and instability has made the problem far worse. 

The IPC therefore published a list of recommendations urging the international community to step up to ease the humanitarian disaster. And Britain heeded the call on Monday with a new commitment to help hundreds of thousands of Afghans access lifesaving support. 

The UK’s Department of International Development (DfID) just pledged an additional £25 million in UK aid — meaning that Britain will have contributed a total of £67 million to the response in 2018. 

That fresh cash injection will be split equally between the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF). The WFP will provide food or cash transfers to 602,660 people for three months, while the AHF will give tents and urgent relief items for up to 260,000 people displaced by the drought, according to a DfID press release.

The UK is the second largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan — and Penny Mordaunt, DfID’s international development secretary, urged other countries to join them.

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“This deadly drought is already affecting millions of Afghans, many of whom have had to leave their homes and livelihoods in desperate search of basic necessities,” said Mordaunt. “UK aid will provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of Afghans, including food, clean water, and tents.”

“But others must step up alongside the UK,” she added. “Other donors must do more if we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture reported that the drought has caused a 45% decline in agricultural output in 2018. Everything is connected — and if the drought continues without greater international support, it’s likely that poverty will make Mamareen and Akila’s story far more commonplace.