Child marriage is on the rise in parts of Africa, while droughts are devastating parts of the continent in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
This crisis has pushed families to the brink, leaving girls at greater risk of a range of risks, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), girls at the age of 12 are forced into marriage, which hinders their right to healthcareeducation and security.
Infant brides are also at risk of HIV infection, maternal death and disability, including obstetric fistula.
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“We are seeing alarming levels of child marriage and FGM in the Horn of Africa,” Andy Brooks, UNICEF Regional Child Protection Adviser for East and South Africa, said in a statement.
“Some destitute families arrange to marry twelve-year-old girls to men who are more than five times their age.”
Child marriages increased by an average of 119% in regions hardest hit by the drought. Of the 23 drought-affected counties, 14 are already hotbeds of FGM, with rates as high as 98%.
Parents marry off their children to “provide a dowry to help support the rest of the family to have one less mouth, or in an attempt to help the bride get into a more affluent family.” UNICEF wrote.
The drought is considered a huge factor in the vulnerability of young girls, as in countries like Ethiopia the number of child marriages has doubled in a year.
In the last decade horn of africa suffered from three severe droughts (2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2021). The 2010–2011 drought, combined with conflict and difficult humanitarian access issues, caused famine in Somalia.
The Famine Early Warning Network said there are more than 1.8 million children in the region in dire need of treatment for life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, and 213,000 people are currently at risk of starvation in Somalia.
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