COVID-19 has upended the lives of children and families across the globe and adversely affected programmes to end child marriage. The pandemic is having a devastating effect on families, communities and economies. In the medium to long term, the threat of child marriage is far greater when communities are affected by economic shocks and have limited access to basic services such as health, education and child protection, all of which are being negatively impacted by the pandemic. UNFPA estimates indicate that COVID-19 will disrupt efforts to end child marriage, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages taking place between 2020 and 2030 that could otherwise have been averted.
This brief has been developed jointly by UNFPA and UNICEF regional offices in Eastern and Southern Africa under the Global Programme to end child marriage and provides an overview child marriage in the region, particularly in the context of COVID-19, as well as an analysis of disruptions to child marriage programmes in Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique and Zambia. It also describes alternatives to traditional programmatic work as a means to overcome challenges presented by COVID-19.
The brief proposes a way forward for child marriage programming during the COVID-19 response and recovery phases, as well as outlining implications for future programming, including the need to strengthen programme resilience.