Reporter Yogita Limaye travelled to a village outside of Herat, in the west of the country, and spoke to a mother who sold her infant daughter for $500 to pay for food for her other children.
The buyer is an unnamed man who claimed he wanted to raise the girl to marry his son, there is no guarantee. He paid $250 as a down payment, enough to feed the family for a few months, and will return to collect the baby once she can walk.
It comes after the World Food Program warned that more than half the population of Afghanistan, around 22.8 million people, risk acute malnutrition and death in the coming months with a million children at risk of dying ‘without immediate treatment’.
Reporter Yogita Limaye travelled to a village outside of Herat, in the west of the country, and spoke to a mother who sold her infant daughter, pictured, for $500 to pay for food
The parents explained they had no food for their other children, three pictured with their father. The man buying the girl paid $250 of the $500 and will return to collect her
Millions of dollars will be needed over the coming months to avert a worst-case scenario, the WFP said, but cash is being withheld by governments who are fearful that donations will be plundered by the Taliban.
Meanwhile a Save the Children report warned that families are ‘selling what little they have to buy food, sending their children to work or getting by on bread alone.’
There are reports eight orphans starved to death in Kabul and mothers in Herat and surrounding villages have spoken of selling children to pay for food.
‘My other children were dying of huger so we had to sell my daughter,’ the mother of the infant girl told the BBC. ‘How can I not be sad? She is my child. I wish I didn’t have to sell my daughter.’
Her husband, who used to make money by collecting rubbish but has fallen on hard times, added: ‘We are starving.
‘Right now we have no flour, no oil at home. We have nothing. My daughter has no idea what her future will be. I don’t know how she will feel about it. But I had to do it.’
The mother, pictured, felt she had no other choice but to sell her daughter for the sake of her family. Her daughter will live with them until she can walk and will then be taken away
They are just one of many families who feel they have no choice if they want to sell their children. In the time the BBC crew was in the village, they were approached by another family who asked if they wanted to buy one of their children.
Afghanistan – an impoverished country devastated by decades of conflict and rampant corruption – was dependent on overseas aid for some 40 per cent of its GDP even whilst it was ruled by a government propped up by the West.
But the Covid pandemic, drought, and the near-overnight collapse of its government and subsequent Taliban take-over has dramatically worsened the situation, with the country now on the verge of economic meltdown.
The value of its currency has plunged even as food prices have soared while aid has stopped, with workers going unpaid, businesses shut and families forced to flog off everything – including their children – just to survive.
Underlining the severity of the situation, eight children were reported to have starved to death in the capital of Kabul this week.
Mohammad Ali Bamiyani, preacher of a nearby mosque, told journalists that the siblings had been orphaned in recent months after their father died of cancer and mother perished of a heart condition.
Speaking of the moment he entered the family’s home, he said: ‘All eight children were dead. It was clear that they had starved. The children were so hungry that they could not even stretch their legs.’
Desperate: The lack of foreign aid is also having a dangerous impact on the healthcare system. One mother, pictured, whose young twins are at the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Herat told Limaye: ‘Two of my children are facing death because we don’t have any money
The WFP warns that levels of poverty which were once limited to Afghanistan’s rural regions are now hitting big cities, all of which face food shortages this winter.
‘Rampant unemployment and the liquidity crisis mean that all major urban centres are projected to face… food insecurity, including formerly middle-class populations,’ Monday’s report said.
Meanwhile the country’s harsh winter is threatening to ‘cut off’ rural areas where 7.3million people are dependent on food aid after farms were hit by drought.
The WFP is now urgently appealing for funds, warning some $220million-per-month may be needed to keep everyone fed. Another $211million will be needed to help rural areas hit by drought, it said.
The lack of foreign aid is also having a dangerous impact on the healthcare system. Medical staff are not being paid, and there are no funds to buy medical supplies.
Even before the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, the country relied on aid for 40 per cent of its GDP and the need has only increased since. Pictured, Taliban members stop women protesting for women’s rights in Kabul on October 21
One mother, whose young twins are at the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Herat told Limaye: ‘Two of my children are facing death because we don’t have any money.
‘I want the world to help the Afghan people. I don’t want any other mother to see their children suffer like this.’
World leaders have pledged some $1billion in aid for Afghanistan but are struggling to work out how to get it into the country without it being pilfered by the Taliban.
Alex Zerden, a former Treasury Department official and fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned CNBC last month that the potential for corruption within Taliban ranks is ‘huge’.
A quarter of Afghanistan’s banks are state-owned, he said, along with the national bank which would typically be used to move large volumes of cash around.
‘The Taliban control customs, they control taxation. They were in the extortion business a month ago [and] I don’t think they’re going to change,’ he said.