Afghan mother forced to give away one of her newborn twins due to worsening hunger crisis

‘We have nothing, so how could I take care of them both,’ says mother

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Corrrespondent
Friday 10 December 2021 00:07
<p>Ara, who is 18 months and is severely malnourished, being held by her mother Fatima</p>

Ara, who is 18 months and is severely malnourished, being held by her mother Fatima

An Afghan mother was forced to give one of her newborn twins away due to not having enough food for both of the children to eat.

Save the Children warned growing numbers of families are struggling to find enough food to survive as Afghanistan’s acute hunger crisis spirals out of control since the Taliban seized control of the country in mid-August.

Bibi*, a 40-year-old, gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, earlier this year but has now been pushed into giving one of the twins up due to not having sufficient money to feed her eight children.

She said: “We have nothing, so how could I take care of them both. I suffered from having to split them up.

“It was a very difficult decision, more than you could imagine. It was especially difficult to give the baby away because of poverty.”

Bibi and Mohammad*, her 45-year-old husband, have given their twin to a couple who does not have children.

Bibi said she had planned to give her baby away without seeking any payment for the child, but ended up swapping their baby for a small amount of money.

“I couldn’t afford milk, food, or medicine. With that money, I could buy food for half a year,” she said.

Save the Children, who gave details of the tragic story, warned millions of people have been driven “to the brink of famine” by a lengthy drought that has ravaged crops. Biba and Mohammad and their children were forced to leave their farm about seven months ago due to the drought.

Mohammad said he has struggled to find just a couple of days of work each week - saying that a day’s earnings is not sufficient to pay for two days of expenses for his family. The couple’s 12-year-old son has now been forced to push carts which transport the bags and possessions of others to make additional money for the family.

Mohammad said: “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.”

The charity said more than 97 per cent of Afghans are estimated to plummet below the poverty line by mid-next year.

Afghanistan is “facing its worst food crisis on record”, the organisation warned, with growing numbers of people driven into making “desperate, life-altering” choices to merely get by, while harrowing tales like Bibi and Mohammed’s become more prevalent.

Fatima*, a mother of twins, told how her family tried to force her to leave one of her babies who was malnourished due to them struggling to afford food.

Her 18-month-old twins, Ara* and Milad*, are both sick and weak - with one of the twins, Ara, experiencing severe malnutrition as the temperature plummets in Afghanistan.

Fatima, who is a single mother, said she does not have enough money to properly look after children and feed them but she does not want to give them up.

“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,” the 21-year-old 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. I have lots of hope for my children to be healthy in the future.”

Her comments come after it recently emerged more than half of the population in Afghanistan is facing acute hunger. Almost 23 million people will struggle to feed themselves this winter, with at least 14 million children among them, a report by Save the Children found.

This marks a 35 per cent rise in hunger levels in comparison to last year, with just 5 per cent of households in Afghanistan currently able to get their hands on enough food to eat each day. Eight children from one family starved to death in western Kabul last month, according to Save the Children.

Nora Hassanien, Save the Children’s 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 even death.”

She warned “time is running out” for children to receive the “life-saving help” they need to make it through the winter months.

The organisation said millions of children face dying or getting ill due to not having enough food to eat as they urged world leaders to “make urgent exemptions to existing counterterror and sanctions policies to allow for the swift and uninterrupted delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid”.

Last month, the British Red Cross issued a warning that Afghanistan’s population is facing one of the bleakest winters in “living memory” unless aid and money can get to the nation in the space of just weeks. Temperatures plummet to as low as -25C in mountainous parts of Afghanistan.

Studies have found it is often women who eat “last and least” in nations grappling with war or hunger. Some 60 per cent of the 690 million people currently starving or enduring food insecurity around the world are women and girls.

*Names changed to protect identities

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