Afghan Parents Are Selling Their Children to Afford Food

An elderly man drinks tea as he sits alongside a road during a snow storm in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 3, 2022. (Ali Khara/Reuters)

Bloomberg Quicktake produced a brief video on the severe economic hardship facing the people of Afghanistan. “Parents in Afghanistan have been forced to sell their children, mainly daughters, in order to feed the rest of their family,” the video says.

The video shows Aziz Gul, the mother of a ten-year-old girl who was sold into marriage. According to the translation, she says:

We didn’t have anything to eat at home, I told my husband to bring some food before our children die of hunger. So, he kept on bringing in food and I asked him, where do you make the money from to buy all these foods? He told me, “I have sold my daughter into marriage to get money and buy food.” I started fighting with him and my heart stopped beating, I wished I could have died. I told my husband I am not going to give my daughter to marriage at such a young age.

The video records the father of a different girl, this one seven years old, who was sold into marriage. The family who purchased her is waiting until she is older to settle for the full amount and take her, the video says. The father, Hamid Abdullah, is looking to sell his second daughter for the equivalent of $200 to $300. “Today I am not even able to get food for my family or medicine for my sick wife, so I don’t have any other choice,” he says in the video, according to the translation. “I have to sell her because of poverty, vulnerability and the bad situation we are in.”

The national director of World Vision in Afghanistan, Asuntha Charles, said in the video that she was “heartbroken” to learn of families selling their children to afford necessities. This level of poverty was not the norm. “The situation is deteriorating in this country and especially children are suffering,” Charles said.

The Biden administration likes to pretend that the consequences of leaving Afghanistan were uncertain, but this economic implosion was entirely foreseeable. Our own Andrew Stuttaford wrote on August 22 of last year, “What lies immediately ahead looks to be . . . financial collapse and food shortages. This, especially the last, will be a challenge to the new regime.” In another piece from August 24, Andrew wrote, “A major crunch is coming very soon. There are many more people to look after than the last time the Taliban was running the country.”

Andrew noted in that piece that the former governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, Ajmal Ahmady, tweeted on August 18 (his account has since gone private) that the following would happen:

– Treasury freezes assets

– Taliban have to implement capital controls and limit dollar access

– Currency will depreciate

– Inflation will rise as currency pass through is very high

– This will hurt the poor as food prices increase

Events have transpired exactly as Ahmady predicted.

  1. The Treasury froze Afghan assets on August 18.
  2. The Taliban banned foreign currencies, including the dollar, on November 3.
  3. Afghanistan’s currency depreciated by 33 percent against the dollar in 2021.
  4. “Hyperinflation storms Kabul as Afghanistan pays the price for Taliban incompetence,” reads a December 15 headline from the Daily Telegraph.
  5. And now, according to the Bloomberg video, people in poverty are selling their children to afford food as food prices increase.

Afghanistan’s economic situation mirrored its military situation: In the absence of Western support, it can’t work. As Alan Cole wrote on August 23, Afghanistan imported $7 billion worth of goods annually (the whole country’s GDP is only $19 billion). Without a Western-backed government providing even the smallest measure of stability to foreigners doing business in the country, and without access to the country’s currency reserves, the economy would surely collapse. Cole wrote:

This will mean significant hardship for ordinary Afghans. Afghanistan has never been an especially wealthy country, but its citizens will now face severe shortages of imported products, from smartphones to medicines. The country is also heavily dependent on imported electricity and may have to drastically cut back its energy use.

(That last bit about electricity has also come true: Electricity projects have been put on hold because of the absence of Western support, causing factories in Kandahar to shut down. On December 27, Afghanistan signed a new electricity deal with Tajikistan, which was facing crippling electricity shortages of its own as recently as November.)

Economic predictions are always difficult and are often incorrect, but the economic crisis Afghanistan currently faces was easy to foresee. Not only was it predictable, it was predicted. Not only has it happened, it has happened in the exact ways Stuttaford, Ahmady, and Cole, among others, said that it would.

Though Afghanistan has largely left the headlines, the disaster that was set in motion by President Biden’s withdrawal is still ongoing. Contrary to Biden’s hopes, the American people are not going to easily forget about Afghanistan. His approval ratings began declining during the withdrawal — which likely played a large role in the backlash against Democrats nationally in 2021 — and they have not recovered. Americans and American allies are still stuck in Afghanistan. This crisis isn’t going away, and don’t let the Biden administration tell you that nobody could see it coming.

Dominic Pino is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute.