Increased poverty levels, rising hunger, and reduced access to education, as a result of COVID-19, will force millions of children into child marriage; a report by World Vision has revealed.
World Vision’s report that covers Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Ghana, and India reveals that the year 2020 had the largest increase in child marriage rates in 25 years.
The situation is expected to get worse with a hungry child being with increasing global hunger being 60% more likely to be married than a child not experiencing hunger. As global hunger levels drastically increase, so will child marriage rates.
Speaking on the report, World Vision Zimbabwe’s National Director Assan Golowa said progress in the Sustainable Development Goals remains decelerated in the face of COVID-19 which has since increased poverty levels and hunger.
“The pandemic has posed a threat to the education system whilst increasing the risk of girls becoming brides,” Golowa said.
“Vulnerable children, especially, girls will be forced to bear the brunt of yet another crisis as many will be forced out of school and some married of to men their fathers’ age.”
The World Vision report also reveals that the five million primary and secondary school-age girls potentially missing out on an education as a result of COVID-19 are at high risk of child marriage.
School closures had an impact on increasing child marriage rates with children who are not present in school being 3.4 times more likely to be married than their peers currently in school according to highlights in the report.
“A case study done in Zimbabwe showed that children who don’t feel supported by their parents or caregivers are more likely to consider child marriage as a palatable alternative, it seems likely that a worsening situation at home might create another push factor for most girls,” said Golowa.
“The root causes of child marriage drivers, such as hunger, poverty, and access to education, must be urgently addressed. Governments around the world, who are focussed on dealing with the fallout from the economic impacts of COVID-19, must also prioritize the protection of the world’s most vulnerable children who are at risk of suffering aftershocks of the pandemic.”
Zimbabwe’s National Director at World Vision said children need support from parents/guardians or caregivers since the COVID-19 pandemic causes a mental health crisis.
Parents in Zimbabwe were found involved in negotiating child marriages with the case of Anna Machaya in mind.