Parwana Malik, a 9-year-old girl living in an Afghan displacement camp in a northwestern Badghis province, was sold as a child bride to a 55-year-old man for food, according to CNN. As the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan continues, starving families have been forced into desperation, made worse by the Taliban takeover back in August.

For four years, Parwana Malik’s family has been just one of many living off a few dollars a day for menial work and humanitarian aid. The country’s economic collapse has made it increasingly more difficult for the family to provide food to eat. Parwana’s sister, who was 12 years old, was sold as a child bride just a few months earlier.

Speaking with CNN, the Malik family told reporters that they were driven to desperation, and wanted to share their heartbreaking story with the world in an attempt to raise awareness for a horrible practice they are powerless to change.

“We are eight family members,” said Abdul Malik, Parwana’s father. “I have to sell to keep other family members alive.”

The night before the 55-year-old man, Qorban, came to take Parwana away, Abdul told CNN that he was “broken” with guilt. He went to the provincial capital city, Qala-e-Naw, to find work and beg relatives for money. His last resort was to receive a healthy dowry for selling one of his daughters as a child bride, but the food he will receive will reportedly only sustain the family for a couple of months.

“As I can see, we don’t have a future… our future is destroyed,” he said. “I will have to sell another daughter if my financial situation doesn’t improve… probably the 2-year-old.”

He accepted the deal from Qorban, who offered him 200,000 Afghanis (about $2,200) in the form of sheep, land and cash for Parwana Malik, since Qorban already had a wife and promised to treat Parwana as one of his daughters, not a marriage.

“Please take care of her… please don’t beat her,” Parwana Malik’s father plead with Qorban on Oct. 24, the day of the sale.

Qorban responded saying that she would be “working in my home,” and that he “won’t beat her.”

“I will treat her like a family member,” he told Abdul Malik. “I will be kind.”

Parwana was dressed in a black head covering with a colorful flower necklace. She pleaded with her father not to let her go, as she wanted to continue her education and become a teacher instead of work in a stranger’s home away from her family.

According to CNN, marrying off children under the age of 15 is illegal nationwide, but the practice still continues in more rural parts of Afghanistan such as where Parwana Malik was located in the northwestern Badghis province.

A report released by the United Nations revealed the humanitarian and hunger crisis has worsened every month since the Taliban took over. In the coming months, more than 3 million children under the age of 5 will face cases of malnutrition.

Due to fighting, more than 677,000 families have been displaced, living in Afghan displacement camps like Parwana Mailk’s all across the country.

A typical tent in an Afghan displacement camp
A typical tent in an Afghan displacement camp. Photo Credit: Shuttterstock

“It’s absolutely cataclysmic,” said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights movement for Human Rights Watch. “We don’t have months or weeks to stem this emergency… we are in the emergency already.”

“As long as a girl is in school, her family is invested in her future,” Barr explained. “As soon as a girl falls out of education, then suddenly it becomes much more likely that she’s going to be married off.”

The problem has been particularly bad for Afghan girls, who were forced out of education and into poverty with their families, where they are now being sold for food at alarming rates. The new Taliban government has done little to curb the humanitarian crisis, and funds for aid has dried up as well since the Taliban took over.

“Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that since aid has been withheld, “It’s the vulnerable, it’s the poor, it’s these young girls who are suffering.”