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Yari: I married to save my family from hunger

The crisis in South Sudan is forcing girls like Yari into child marriages as increasingly desperate families are exchanging their daughters for money or livestock to stay alive.

Yari at her home in a displaced people's camp
Yari, 17, has already been married for 2 years.

Donate to the East Africa food crisis appeal “I wasn’t ready to get married,” says Yari, 17, who is 4 months pregnant and has already been married for 2 years.

Her early marriage happened after her family fled the conflict and settled in a displaced people’s camp in Awerial in South Sudan’s Lakes State.

South Sudan crisis puts girls at risk

Girls are among the groups most at risk during crises. They are often forced to drop out of school to help their families deal with the effects of emergency situations putting them at greater risk of child marriage, teenage pregnancy and abuse. Plan International is working to reduce school drop-outs and these risks faced by girls.

I wasn’t ready to get married

Yari says the decision to marry was made by her parents without her consent. “My mother told me that if I married then I would save the whole family from hunger,” she says.

After arriving in the camp her family had nothing to eat and saw the cattle which were offered in return for her marriage as a chance to boost their chances of survival.

Food shortages add to demands

Since the marriage, life hasn’t got any easier for Yari. “I work from dawn to dusk,” she says. “I have to walk a long way to find clean water and I do all chores for the extended family. The worst thing is looking for food for everyone.”

Plan International is supporting the family with food supplies but to supplement this Yari spends a lot of time in a nearby forest picking leaves to eat.

“Sometimes after eating the leaves I vomit, maybe due to my pregnancy, but I have to eat them to survive,” says Yari. “I crave eggs and fresh fish, but my husband cannot afford that.”

Yari collecting water
Despite being 4 months pregnant, Yari spends her days collecting food and water for her family.

Food distributions can protect girls

Since November 2015, Plan International has distributed food to 8,660 people in Awerial in partnership with the World Food Programme.

We are also working to keep girls in education by providing those who are at school with food rations to share with their families as it serves as an incentive to parents to keep them in school rather than selling them into marriage.

Food supplies are running out

Recipients of the food aid used to receive enough to last them an entire month but the influx of internally displaced people and increasing food needs mean supplies are now stretched much more thinly.

Plan International’s stocks are running out. We need donations urgently to ensure we can continue to provide life-saving food to people like Yari.

Please donate to the East Africa food crisis appeal