In Niger, hunger crisis raises fears of more child marriages

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By Sudarsan Raghavan, Tuesday, July 10, 1:53 AM

Maradi, Niger — Balki Souley lost her son during childbirth the other day. Her body was so frail, so weakened by a lack of food that she, too, nearly died. “When I return to my village, I will try to have another child,” she said shyly as she lay on the floor of a crowded maternity ward.

Married at 12, Balki is now 14 years old.

Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage, with roughly one out of two girls marrying before age 15, some as young as 7. As a hunger crisis affects millions here and across the Sahel region of West Africa, aid workers are concerned that struggling parents might marry off their daughters even earlier for the dowries they fetch, including animals and cash, to help the families survive.

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