Americans are offering to pay a lender who took an Afghan woman’s 3-year-old daughter in exchange for a $550 debt she couldn’t pay

Afghan refugees are processed at Fort Bliss' Doña Ana Village where they are being housed in New Mexico, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.
Afghan refugees are processed at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Village where they are being housed in New Mexico, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. David Goldman/AP Photo
  • Some Americans are eager to help an Afghan woman who sold her 3-year-old kid to pay off a $US550 ($AU735) debt.
  • Nearly two dozen people emailed Insider offering to pay the $US550 ($AU735) so Saleha could get her child back.
  • One woman started a GoFundMe for Saleha, but the crowdfunding platform took it down.

Americans are outraged that a 3-year-old Afghan girl was traded to a man because her mom couldn’t afford a $US550 ($AU735) debt.

After Insider wrote about Saleha, an Afghan woman who makes 70 cents ($0.94) a day in her job as a house cleaner, Americans emailed in to offer aid. Nearly two dozen people asked how they could help, with several offering to pay off the full $US550 ($AU735) debt to reunite Saleha with her daughter.

“I can feel Saleha’s pain. I cry when I think of her 3-year-old with a strange man away from her mother,” said Julianne McGee, a medical biller from Hawaii. “It is trauma that this mother and child do not need to experience.”

Saleha didn’t have the money to pay off the debt, and neither did her husband, who doesn’t work. The two had to sell their daughter to settle the debt.

“If life continues to be this awful, I will kill my children and myself,” Saleha said. “I don’t even know what we will eat tonight.”

Several parents wrote in to Insider, asking whether there are nonprofits they can donate to in support of Saleha or to help other Afghans who can’t afford to pay off their debts.

One woman, Jessica Cyrus from Ohio, told Insider she started a GoFundMe for Saleha. But the crowdfunder was quickly removed because GoFundMe was “unable to verify [her] connection to the intended recipient of [her] fundraiser’s donations,” the platform said in an email to Cyrus viewed by Insider.

“If I can give this family their daughter back, the money is nothing,” said Cyrus, a mother to four kids, including one 3-year-old.

The story also resonated with people from outside the US, with some Canadians, for example, offering to help as well.

Afghanistan is approaching extreme poverty

Last month, the United Nations’ development agency said Afghanistan is heading toward “universal poverty” following the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.

Within a year, the poverty rate in Afghanistan will hover at a whopping 97% or 98%, said Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Director.

And just on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund released a report showing Afghanistan’s economy might shrink by 30% because of “multiple shocks in the aftermath of the Taliban’s return to power.”

These shocks include the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, cash shortages, and frozen foreign assets.

“The resulting drop in living standards threatens to push millions into poverty and could lead to a humanitarian crisis,” the report says.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from the region after two decades spent trying to rid the country of extremists. In its takeover, the Taliban renamed the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, reverting back to the same name used during the last time the regime held power, in 1996. The regime remained in power until 2001, after the US invaded Afghanistan.

After the US ousted the Taliban from power in 2001, Afghanistan made several developmental gains including the doubling of per capita income and an increase in the average number of years of education, Wignaraja said.

Over the past two decades, Afghanistan made significant economic gains that are now in danger of collapsing because of political instability. Afghanistan faces “a crush on local banking” because of the Taliban takeover, Wignaraja said. That instability is only worsened by the pandemic.

The Biden administration, in an effort to limit the Taliban’s resources, froze nearly $US10 ($AU13) billion in reserves in the country’s central bank – most of which is reportedly held by the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. The move has been criticized as misdirected and will ultimately hurt Afghans more than the Taliban, Shah Mehrabi, a senior board member of Da Afghanistan Bank, told Bloomberg.