Plan International Australia, the charity for girls’ equality, is gravely concerned by recent reports of a spike in child marriages in Afghanistan, with desperate families making gut-wrenching decisions to sell their daughters or face starvation and death as the country’s humanitarian crisis worsens.
As its economy collapses and international aid dries up, Afghanistan has been plunged into an unprecedented food crisis, with five million children on the brink of famine – and one million children at risk of starvation and death if urgent action is not taken.
According to UN World Food Programme figures, more than 22 million people in Afghanistan are expected to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity by November as the winter sets in.
With entire Afghan families unable to afford the most basic of food necessities, parents have claimed that their daughters would stand a better chance of survival if married into another family with greater means.
“The stories this week of extremely young girls being forced into marriages is utterly devastating,” said Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena.
“Through decades of research on child and early forced marriage and working with some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, we know that starvation and hunger leads to significantly higher numbers of child marriage and gender-based violence.
“In emergencies, many families who wouldn’t previously have considered child marriage turn to it as a last resort. One less mouth to feed plus receipt of a dowry may increase families’ chances of survival but the practice has long term and devastating consequences on girls who are less likely to complete their education and are more likely to experience early pregnancy and poor health as a result”.
Plan International Australia is calling on the Australian Government to double its foreign aid contribution to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.
This would be in line with other donor countries such as the United Kingdom which has doubled it Afghan assistance to A$537 million and the European Union which has quadrupled its contribution to A$322 million.
Australia’s foreign aid to Afghanistan has been in decline over the last decade and an urgent increase is needed to reflect the pressing need the country now faces.
As food crisis worsens globally, child marriages predicted to rise
It is six months since the UN warned that famine risk is soaring globally – Afghanistan is one of the 43 countries the agency has said is teetering on the brink of famine.
42 million people worldwide are now at serious risk of famine and one in 10 people is suffering malnutrition, with the most basic of food needs going unmet.
Conflict, the climate crisis, economic shocks and the Covid-19 pandemic are set to push more people into crisis level hunger and malnutrition in 2022, which could lead to 3.3 million more children being at risk of child marriage.
As the UN Secretary General has recently alerted, less than half the funding needed to stave off famine in six countries of highest concern has been received to date.
Plan International Australia is supporting the UN’s calls for $6.6 billion in humanitarian aid to go towards the global food crisis.
For further comment please contact Plan International Australia media and public relations advisor Claire Knox on 0452326549