Afghan families are forced to sell their children to pay off their debts, as the country’s economy is on the brink of near total collapse.
A destitute mother, who only earns 50p a day working as a cleaner in the western town of Herat, owes a man £ 400 from whom she borrowed money to support her family.
The woman, identified as Saleha, has been told by the lender that he will write off the debt if she sells her three-year-old daughter Najiba to him, the Wall Street Journal reports.
If Saleha, 40, does not pay off the debt in three months, her daughter will leave her family home to work for the lender before marrying one of her sons when she hits puberty.
Saleha’s situation is not uncommon in Afghanistan, which faces a humanitarian crisis as cash reserves run low and international aid is cut short.
Other families in Herat have been forced to sell their children in order to repay their debts, residents said.
Afghan families are forced to sell their children to pay off their debts, as the country’s economy is on the brink of near total collapse. Pictured: Women and their children wait for health care in Helmand province
A woman gives bread to needy youth outside a bakery in Kabul on September 19, 2021
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August, the country’s economy has been on the brink of collapse.
It has seen the value of its currency plummet even though banknotes are scarce, while commodity prices have skyrocketed due to shortages, with the UN warning that food could soon run out dangerously.
This led the UN chief this week to warn that Afghanistan faces a “watershed moment” as he urgently called on countries to put money back into the Afghan economy, which before the Taliban takeover in August was dependent on international aid, which represented 75% of state spending.
Afghanistan is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the United States and other countries, and disbursements from international organizations have been suspended.
The effects of the economic collapse could prove fatal for the country where a third of the population survives on less than $ 2 a day.
For Saleha, she must now find enough money to pay off her debt – or lose her three-year-old daughter. Her much older husband does not work.
Saleha and her family worked on a farm in Badghis but were forced to flee to Herat due to fighting and drought. They were forced to borrow money for food.
The situation has become overwhelming, as the prices of basic food items such as flour and oil have doubled since the Taliban took power.
“If life continues to be this horrible, I’m going to kill my children and myself,” Saleh told the WSJ from his tiny two-room house. “I don’t even know what we’re going to eat tonight.
“I will try to find the money to save my daughter’s life,” Saleha’s husband Abdul Wahab added.
The lender, Khalid Ahmad, confirmed to the newspaper that he said he would write off the family’s debts in exchange for their three-year-old daughter.
‘I don’t have any money either. They did not reimburse me, ”said Mr. Ahmad of Badghis. “So there is no choice but to take the girl. “
A girl picks up food and recyclables from garbage near Kabul airport on September 21, 2021
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is worsening, affecting at least 18 million people, or half of the country’s population. Many now have to collect plastic bottles to recycle or sell them to earn enough money for food.
But a Taliban official said the Afghans will have to get used to the struggle for “a few months.”
The official said: “We suffered for 20 years fighting jihad, we lost family members, we didn’t have adequate food and in the end we were rewarded by this government. If people have to struggle for a few months, so what? said the official. “Popularity is not important to the Taliban.
UN chief Guterres said this week: “Right now, with assets frozen and development aid suspended, the economy is collapsing.
“Banks are closing and essential services, such as health care, have been suspended in many places. ”
He said injecting cash to prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse is a separate matter from recognizing the Taliban, lifting sanctions, thawing frozen assets or restoring international aid.