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.


US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

Some of the 20 ministers, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, pose for a photo prior to the 55th Munich Security Conference in southern Germany, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

  • Acting US Defense Secretary Shanahan envisions a ‘bigger and stronger’ coalition to fight Daesh globally

MUNICH: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Friday that the US is committed to defeating Daesh in the Middle East and beyond, but officials said European allies are skeptical of Washington’s pledges.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he was withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria surprised and rattled allies. US officials have crisscrossed the Middle East in recent weeks to reassure them that Washington remains committed to the region.
Trump’s Syria decision was opposed by top aides, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit, leaving his deputy Shanahan in charge of the Pentagon.
“While the time for US troops on the ground in northeast Syria winds down, the United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause, the permanent defeat of Daesh, both in the Middle East and beyond,” Shanahan said after a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
The meeting included about a dozen defense ministers from the coalition to defeat Daesh. Kurdish-led fighters are battling to capture Daesh’s last major stronghold in Syria, but even without territory, the militant group is widely seen as a continuing threat.
Shanahan said he envisioned a “bigger and stronger” coalition to fight Daesh globally. “We will continue to support our local partners’ ability to stand up to the remnants of Daesh,” he added.
However, European officials said they were given few details during the closed-door meeting in Munich and many questions remain. “We are still trying to understand how the Americans plan to withdraw. I don’t think there is any clarity still,” one European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said.
Another official said Shanahan did not provide allies with a timeline of the American withdrawal from Syria and allies expressed skepticism during the meeting. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no commitments were made during the meeting and there was little discussion about timelines.
“These meetings don’t tend to have specific deliverables or decisions, it tends to be more focused on taking stock of where we are,” the US official said.
Trump has said he expects a formal announcement as early as this week that the coalition fighting Daesh has reclaimed all the territory held by the group.
Around 20 ministers including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany will take part in the meeting, according to one source.
US forces are the largest contributors by far to the anti-Daesh coalition and their pullout will leave a vacuum in Syria where major powers are jostling for influence.

Withdrawal issue
“The withdrawal of the American troops from Syria will evidently be at the heart of discussions,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly before the meeting.
“Once the so-called caliphate no longer has any territory, the international community will have to guarantee that there will be no resurgence of Daesh in Syria or elsewhere,” her ministry’s statement said.
The end of Daesh territory in Syria is heightening worries about experienced militants and foreign fighters escaping and forming new Daesh cells in Syria or beyond.
Once American forces leave, another complication emerges: The future of areas in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish YPG forces, a key US ally in the fight against militants but a militia branded terrorists by Turkey.