The Wedding May Save a Family. But the Bride Is 8

Experts warn of child marriage, for some an alternative to starvation, amid catastrophe
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2022 7:50 PM CDT
The Wedding May Save a Family. But the Bride Is 8
In this photo taken July 30, 2017, 17-year-old Eliza, who at age 13 was forced by her father to marry a 35-year-old man from their village in exchange for 50 cattle, stands next to crops in a courtyard in the town of Rumbek, South Sudan.   (AP Photo/Mariah Quesada)

Nyekuoth Manyuan dreamed of becoming a doctor. Instead, at 14, she was taken from her village of Kueryiek in South Sudan and wed to a 25-year-old man in exchange for 60 cattle. "I know I'm young," Nyekuoth told CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta. "But the food's been taken away, and I want my family to survive on the dowry." Two months ago, Nyekuoth was receiving education and a meal each day thanks to the United Nations' World Food Program. But with rising costs and a drop in donations, triggered in part by Russia's war in Ukraine, the program had to suspend aid to nearly 2 million people, CBS reports.

"It's because there are so many catastrophes blowing up across the world," says Marwa Awad, head of communications for the WFP in South Sudan, referring to humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Ukraine. There's "less money to feed more and more people." Indeed, El Pais tells of 8-year-old Afasana from Afghanistan, who will soon wed a 25-year-old man in exchange for about $2,300. "At least I will be able to eat twice a day," she tells the outlet. "Of course I didn't want to do this," adds her father. "But after the Taliban arrived I lost my job as a sweeper" and "without money, we had no other option." Even infants are promised away, sometimes before leaving the womb.

UNICEF has also warned about "alarming rates" of child marriage in the Horn of Africa, "as the most severe drought in forty years" and skyrocketing food and fuel prices leave families desperate. "Some destitute families [are] arranging to marry off girls as young as twelve to men more than five times their age," says Andy Brooks, UNICEF's Regional Child Protection Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa. Awad says "the solution is that people do not forget ... because there are still many lives that can thrive if help is given." It costs just $15 to feed a school child in South Sudan for a month, CBS reports. (Read more child marriage stories.)

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