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Stunning AP package reveals desperate Afghan parents selling children; readers respond

Qandi Gul, 10, holds her brother outside housing for those displaced by war and drought near Herat, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2021. Gul’s father sold her into marriage without telling his wife Aziz, taking a down payment so he could feed his family of five children. Without that money, he told Aziz, they would all starve. He had to sacrifice one to save the rest. But Aziz is fighting to save her daughter from being forced into the arranged marriage. (AP Photo / Mstyslav Chernov)

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This powerful all-formats story highlights the desperation in Afghanistan under its new Taliban rulers, with the stories of parents who are selling their very young children so the rest of the family doesn’t starve.

Southeast Europe Bureau Chief Elena Becatoros and multiformat journalist Mstyslav Chernov were on assignment,reporting stories on drought in remote and lawless western Afghanistan,when a family told them they were looking to sell their son because they needed money to feed the others. Back in the nearby city of Herat, they met a distraught woman at a mobile health clinic who told them that her husband had already sold their 10-year-old daughter and she needed help to get her back. Another said she had sold a daughter and was looking to sell another.

The team worked with knowledgeable local drivers and coordinated with aid organisations and the Taliban to get access to this stunning story. Chernov’s photos and video were haunting — and particularly rare in Afghanistan,where insecurity and the difficulties of getting around mean that sensitive stories,especially in the remote provinces, are very rarely reported on camera.

Some readers and viewers were so moved that they reached out to Becatoros and Chernov,offering to send money to the affected families.

For getting exceptional access and telling the story beautifully in all formats, Becatoros and Chernov earn AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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