UNICEF warns child marriages may rise to 310 million by 2050

UNICEF statistics show possibility of great increase of child marriage in African region

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

African children eat a meal in a camp for internally displaced people in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, November 25, 2015

Updated Nov 27, 2015

The United Nations' (UN) UNICEF, Children's Rights and Emergency Relief Organisation, warned on Thursday in a report that the number of child brides in Africa could soar to 310 million by 2050, if current levels persist.

The 8-page report titled "A Profile of Child Marriage in Africa" was released at the African Union Girls Summit in Lusaka, Zambia on Thursday.

UNICEF documented that seventeen percent of the 700 million girls married off before the age of eighteen are from Africa, most of whom belong to the poorest section of the population and live in rural areas.

The report gives statistics suggesting that there will be fewer child brides in the world’s other regions, while Africa could possibly have more child brides than it ever has, if measures are not taken to decrease the incidence of child marriages.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma said that child marriages could be lessend through “greater awareness, teamed with a collaborative approach.''

"Child marriage generates norms that have become increasingly difficult to exterminate – norms that undermine the value of our women," she said.

UNICEF also documented the effects of early marriage on children, stating that child brides are less likely to finish school and more likely to be exposed to violence as their prospects of a healthy and successful life decline.

African governments launched an action plan to reduce child marriage rates after a continent-wide campaign launched on May 2014 by the African Union.

The plan includes measures such as allowing girls to have access to birth registration, quality education and reproductive health services and prohibiting marriage before the age of 18.

UNICEF encouraged African governments to impose these measures as soon as possible in order to prompt the "required" change.

UNICEF, also says strict measures enforced by law would also reduce the risk of babies dying shortly after birth because of a low birth weight, which is often seen in newborns with teenage mothers.

Executive Director for UNICEF, Anthony Lake said, "The sheer number of girls affected - and what this means in terms of lost childhoods and shattered futures - underline the urgency of banning the practice of child marriage once and for all."

"The data is also clear that ending child marriage requires a much sharper focus on reaching the poorest and most marginalized girls - those in greatest need and at greatest risk - with quality education and a host of other protective services. Their lives, and the futures of their communities, are at stake. Each child bride is an individual tragedy. An increase in their number is intolerable," he added.


TRTWorld and agencies