UN: Drought drives desperate Afghans to marry off children for money

About 11 million people — almost half of Afghanistan’s rural population — will be facing “severe acute food insecurity” until February. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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UN: Drought drives desperate Afghans to marry off children for money

  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization said Afghan families have been skipping meals, selling off livestock and moving to cities where it is easier to access aid and services
  • Families receive a bride price that can ease their financial woes, having lost their livelihoods and assets

PHNOM PENH: Afghanistan’s worst drought in decades has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and is pushing families to marry off their children in exchange for dowries in order to survive, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
About 223,000 people have been uprooted from their homes in the drought-hit western provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor this year, according to the UN children’s agency (UNICEF).
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Afghan families have been skipping meals, selling off livestock and moving to cities where it is easier to access aid and services.
Some displaced families are taking even more drastic measures, according to UNICEF, which documented 161 child betrothals or marriages in Herat and Badghis between July and October. Of those, 155 were girls and six were boys.
“The drought is the worst in decades,” UNICEF spokeswoman Alison Parker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Children are becoming the collateral.”
Families receive a bride price that can ease their financial woes, having lost their livelihoods and assets, said Parker.
Many drought-hit families have had to borrow money to pay for transport, food or health care, the United Nations said.
The charity World Vision reported that half of households it surveyed in Badghis in September said child marriage was a measure taken to put food on the table in times of drought. About 11 million people — almost half of Afghanistan’s rural population — will be facing “severe acute food insecurity” until February, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system used by charities to measure hunger.
“Years of civil conflict and instability as well as the severely degraded condition of much of the land have compounded the impacts of the drought,” said an IPC report from August.
In addition to those forced by drought to leave their homes, conflict between the government and an array of armed groups, including the Taliban, has uprooted at least 282,000 people so far this year, according to the United Nations.
The 17-year war has also devastated Afghanistan’s education system, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, an alliance of aid agencies that includes UNICEF and Save the Children.
With a rising number of attacks on schools, teachers and students, the number of children who are not in education is increasing for the first time since 2002, the agencies said.


French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

Updated 14 December 2018
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French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

PARIS: France will deploy tens of thousands of police nationwide and around 8,000 in Paris on Saturday to handle a fifth weekend of ‘yellow vest’ protests, although the movement appears to be losing steam after concessions by President Emmanuel Macron.
The chief of police in Paris said concerns remained about violent groups infiltrating the protests. Anti-riot officers will protect landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and prevent people getting close to the presidential palace.
“We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” police chief Michel Delpuech told RTL radio.
He expected businesses in the capital to be less affected this weekend after heavy disruption over the past three weeks when major stores shut, hotels suffered cancelations and tourists stayed away during the usually busy run-up to Christmas.
Nicknamed “Acte V” of the protests, the yellow vest demonstrators will take to the streets this weekend as France recovers from an unrelated attack on a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, when a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded several others.
Hundreds of police officers were redeployed to Strasbourg to search for the gunman, who was shot dead in an exchange of fire on Thursday evening.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was time for the yellow vests to scale down their protests and accept they had achieved their aims. Police officers also deserved a break, he added.
“I’d rather have the police force doing their real job, chasing criminals and combating the terrorism threat, instead of securing roundabouts where a few thousand people keep a lot of police busy,” he said.
TOLL ON THE ECONOMY
Attractions such as the Louvre museum and Opera Garnier will be open this weekend, as will luxury department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Last Saturday they were closed as thousands of sometimes violent protesters tore through the city. The previous weekend the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized, cars were overturned and torched and businesses smashed up.
The protests have taken a toll on the economy, with output in the last quarter of the year set to be half initial projections, while Macron’s concessions are likely to push the budget deficit above an EU agreed limit.
The yellow vest movement, which began as a protest against fuel taxes and then grew into an anti-Macron alliance, appears to have calmed since the president announced a series of measures to help the working poor.
However, many people wearing the high-visibility motorists’ safety jackets which are the symbol of the protests were manning barricades outside cities on Friday.
After heavy criticism for not being seen to respond to the protesters’ complaints, Macron made a TV address this week during which he said he understood their concerns and acknowledged the need for a different approach.
As well canceling fuel tax increases that were due to kick in next month, Macron said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.
Since the first yellow vest protests on Nov. 17, supporters have kept up a steady stream of dissent, although the numbers joining marches have steadily fallen. ($1 = 0.8857 euros)