The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised the alarm that about 10 million additional child marriages may occur before 2030 in developing countries, as they face short and lifelong consequences.
Executive Director of the fund, Henrietta Fore lamented that child marriage increases the risk of early and unplanned domestic violence, and victims are less likely to remain in school.
She noted that girl-child marriages also increase the risk of maternal complications and mortality in Less Developed Countries (LDCs).
According to UNICEF, child marriages threaten years of progress in reducing the practice in LDCs.
While lamenting increased cases of child marriage, Fore noted that international women’s day is a key moment to remind one another of what young girls will lose if they are married off early.
According to her, girls who marry early face immediate and lifelong consequences, as they are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school.
“The practice can also isolate girls from family and friends and exclude them from participating in their communities. This takes a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being,” she added.
The UNICEF boss stated that with the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 million additional girls are at risk of child marriage, adding that prior to coronavirus outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade.
He said: “Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria. To offset the impact of COVID-19 and end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated.
One year into the pandemic, Fore said immediate action is required to mitigate the toll on girls and their families.
“By reopening schools, implementing effective laws and policies, ensuring access to health and social services – including sexual and reproductive health services – and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage,” Fore stated.