Mother forced to sell months-old twin to buy food in Afghanistan

The hardest choice in the world: Desperate Afghan mother SELLS one newborn twin so she can afford to feed the other as half the country faces starvation under the Taliban

  • Afghan mother-of-six gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl – several months ago 
  • Family, from Jawzjan province, were struggling to provide food for eight children
  • They were forced to sell one of the twins to a childless couple to get food money
  • UN warns that millions of Afghans are facing starvation this winter after Taliban take-over of the country saw aid agencies pull out  

An Afghan mother has been forced to sell one of her newborn twins to get money to feed the other amid the country’s rapidly worsening food crisis. 

The 40-year-old woman, from northern Jawzjan province, gave the baby to a childless couple in return for $104 which she hoped would buy enough food to last her family for another six months.

Drought had forced the couple off of their farm earlier this year and into a nearby city, where her husband and second-eldest son worked as labourers before the Taliban take-over in August collapsed Afghanistan’s economy and work dried up.

The UN now warns that more than half of Afghanistan’s population faces starvation this winter, a problem compounded by the fact that many aid agencies fled the country as the government collapsed and international aid dried up.

This family’s plight was uncovered by Save the Children, which does still have workers on the ground who are distributing what food they have to those in need. 

A 40-year-old mother from Afghanistan has told how she was forced to sell her newborn twin son to get enough food to feed his sister (pictured, the woman holds her baby girl)

The mother said her family were forced off their farm in Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province earlier this year by drought, and the collapse of the economy has made it impossible to find work

Speaking to the charity workers, the Afghan mother explained that she had given birth to the twins – a boy and a girl – around four or five months ago, shortly after leaving their farm due to drought.

Sitting in a bare room carpeted in rugs donated by a local mosque, the woman explained that all of the children’s clothes are secondhand and donated by locals.

She had initially planned to keep both children, but was barely able to get hold of enough food for even one of them – typically bread, and sometimes milk powder. 

Her husband, 45, works as a labourer but says there are only enough jobs for one day of work in five – and the day’s wages, around $1, are enough for just two days of food.

The second-eldest son also works in the nearby market, the mother said, pushing carts that stall owners use to carry their produce.

But because he is young, owners often prefer to use stronger children and he frequently goes without work as well.

With the new babies crying continually from hunger, the woman says a childless couple approached her and offered $104 to take her newborn son away. 

Initially she refused, but after several days of seeing the boy cry with nothing to eat – she decided that giving him away was the best option to provide for him and for her remaining children.

She said: ‘It was hard. Harder than you can imagine. I gave my child away because of destitution… I was unable to take care of him and I could not afford anything.

‘I gave all of the money to my husband. He bought some rice, oil, and flour. We already finished them.’  

Her husband added:  ‘We need help, we are hungry and poor. 

‘There are no work opportunities in Afghanistan. We have children. We need flour and oil the most, which we don’t have. It’s also good to have firewood.

‘I could not afford to buy meat in the last two or three months. We only have bread for the children which is not always available.’

Save the Children provided the family with emergency packages for their home. 

They were given items for the kitchen, blankets, winter clothing, shoes, tool kits and other essential items such as a gas cooking stove.

Workers also learned of a second case where another mother of twins was pressured by her family to leave one of them to die because she was suffering from malnutrition – but she refused to give up on the girl.

The woman’s 18-month-old twins , are both unwell and weak. With the weather getting colder and the little suffering from severe malnutrition, the woman explained she can’t afford to care for her children as a single parent.

‘My son and my daughter cried all last night because they were hungry. We have nothing in my house. We have no food, no flour, we have nothing,’ she said. 

‘My husband doesn’t send us money. (He says) “let her die”. Everyone was telling me, “We will buy her”, but I didn’t give her up.’

Another woman, also the mother of twins, told how her daughter is malnourished and her relatives have urged her to leave the girl to starve or else sell her

Save the Children estimates that 3.2million young Afghans will be facing acute malnutrition before the winter’s end.  

Nora Hassanien, acting Country Director in Afghanistan said: ‘It is absolutely heartbreaking that some Afghan families are being pushed to such extreme, desperate measures in order to survive and feed their other children. 

‘No parent should ever have to make the impossible decision to give up a child.

‘Millions of children in Afghanistan, who have already lived their entire lives through war, are now being pushed to the brink of starvation. 

‘As temperatures drop to well below freezing, thousands of families will not be able to afford fuel to keep warm this winter, putting children at risk of illness or death.

‘Time is running out to get children the life-saving help they need to survive the winter. And aid efforts are being hampered by sanctions and counter terror policies, which prevent aid from getting to the families who desperately need it.’

Save the Children is calling for governments to make urgent exemptions to existing counterterror and sanctions policies, to allow for the swift and uninterrupted delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid. 

Despite the girl being sick from malnutrition, the woman says she refuses to give her up

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