Post Covid-19 era to be plagued with child marriages: experts

The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic will likely cause an increase in the number of child marriages in some third world countries including Zimbabwe, with hunger cited as a driving force, World Vision International has reported.

A latest report by the humanitarian organisation, titled “Covid-19 and child marriages” released Monday, reveals that increased poverty levels, rising hunger and reduced access to education, is likely to affect vulnerable communities. 

The report stated  there is already an increase in the number of children hit by hunger, a condition that would drive most of them into early marriages. 

“The number of children experiencing crisis level hunger increased by 12 million between the year 2019 to 2020, meaning an additional 3.3 million children could be married before the age of 18,” the report stated.

“Children who are not in school are 3.4 times more likely to be married than their peers that are in school. 82 percent of the children interviewed who were married became married after the debut of the pandemic.”

The report investigated how the aftershocks of the global pandemic will force children, who would not otherwise have been married off, into wedlock. 

As global hunger levels drastically increase, so will child marriage rates, with a hungry child being 60 percent more likely to be married than a child not experiencing hunger. 

“The World Vison report covering Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Ghana and India reveals that the surge in child marriage rates is already clearly taking place. The year 2020 saw the largest increase in child marriage rates in 25 years,” the report read.

“According to World Vision data, between March to December 2020, child marriages more-than doubled in many communities compared to 2019. In an assessment of children and families across four countries from July to September 2021, World Vision found a strong correlation in three areas adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: hunger, access to education and parental support.”

World Vision Zimbabwe’s National Director, Assan Golowa, quoted in the report, lamented that the girl child is more likely to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“In as much as the global community’s pledge to end child marriage by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the progress remains decelerated in the face of Covid-19 which has since increased poverty levels and hunger,” Golowa said.

“The pandemic has posed a threat to the education system whilst increasing the risk of girls becoming brides. 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.”

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