Press Release

COVID-19 will put 4 million girls at risk of child marriage, World Vision International warns

Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm, a report released by World Vision International earlier this month, reveals that four million girls are at increased risk of child marriage in the next two years as family livelihoods evaporate and economic crises ensue due to the spread of COVID-19, pushing families to identify other forms of income which might harm children.

The report reviews information from World Vision programmes and looks at the impacts of COVID-19 on children. In the medium to long-term, hardships related to the loss of income and livelihoods will lead to an increase in families resorting to negative coping mechanisms including child marriage. As family income and livelihood become strained, marriage of adolescent girls can be perceived by parents or caregivers as a way to reduce household burden, or a means to earn income or access loans through informal dowry-based economies.

“It has been recently estimated that there will be an additional 13 million child marriages over the next ten years due to COVID-19. Our experience shows that most of these marriages will occur in the years immediately following the crises, with the potential to see at least four million more girls married in the next two years,” said Dana Buzducea, World Vision International Global Leader for Advocacy.

Apart from the increased risk of child marriage, the Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm report also reveals that up to 85 million more children could experience physical and emotional violence in the next three months as vital isolation measures force them to stay home.

Recent experiences with Ebola in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) demonstrated the significant impacts public health emergencies can have on children’s safety. The 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak was accompanied by spikes in abuse, forced marriage, and various other forms of violence against children, especially girls. In the DRC, children were separated from their families or caregivers, and experienced stigma and disruption of day-to-day activities like going to school and playing with their friends.

“As coronavirus sweeps through nations, millions of people have found refuge by isolating in their homes. Unfortunately, home is not a safe space for everyone as an untraceable number of family members have been isolated with their abuser. Schools and community centres can no longer protect vulnerable children in the way they would usually. As a result, our report shows that in numerous countries World Vision has seen reported incidents of child abuse and violence spike since the lockdown measures were imposed. For example in Bangladesh, a national assessment compiled by a range of stakeholders including World Vision revealed beatings by parents or guardians had increased by 42%, and that there was a 40% increase of calls to the child helpline,” said Dana Buzducea.

World Vision will continue its COVID-19 global response that focuses on supporting the world’s most vulnerable to limit the spread and impacts of COVID-19. A couple of weeks ago, World Vision expanded its COVID-19 response to a US$350 million (HK$2,734 million) programme.

Notes to editor: Read World Vision’s Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm report

Published on 25 May 2020

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