Millions of parents and caregivers have lost income and jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the sudden economic shock has forced many households to expose children to harmful and dangerous practices, such as begging or child marriage. According to recent data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), almost 25 million jobs (formal and informal) are currently at risk. An estimated 385 million children already live in extreme poverty, with families struggling to fulfil their most basic needs, including nutritious food, health and education. This number is likely to increase, with projections suggesting up to 66 million children will fall into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.
In July 2020, World Vision published ‘COVID-19 Aftershocks: Out of Time,’ a rapid assessment of the pandemic’s impacts conducted in 24 countries across Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The report’s findings support alarming predictions of increased child hunger, violence and poverty due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Shockingly, 69% of people surveyed globally for the report said their earnings have been halved since the pandemic’s onset. Based on the ‘Out of Time’ report, World Vision projects that up to 110 million children could be going hungry, with the world’s most vulnerable families and their children set to be hardest hit. Families living in fragile countries already afflicted by conflict, climate change, instability or displacement, and those already receiving humanitarian assistance, will suffer even greater injustices. Without immediate action to protect people’s livelihoods, this pandemic’s impacts will reverse progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and irreparably damage the lives of children – both now and for future generations. Poverty’s knock-on effect on family income also risks derailing progress on ending child marriage, child labour and sexual exploitation; again, children living in fragile and conflict-affected contexts are inevitably at the highest risk. With the right interventions, we can prevent such outcomes.
Investing in economic strengthening for the most vulnerable families is a proven path for breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and reducing negative coping mechanisms, such as child marriage. World Vision’s experience from the Ebola pandemic shows that scaling up savings groups (known as Savings for Transformation (S4T) groups ) as part of the COVID-19 livelihoods recovery response will assist the most vulnerable communities to better rebuild their lives, whilst also protecting children from violence.
This series of case studies on S4T groups demonstrates how this common livelihoodsstrengthening intervention can also support efforts to end child marriage. The report has been compiled from a desk review of available industry data and evidence of promising practices from programmes in Ghana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone. World Vision’s believes these examples are useful for policymakers and practitioners aiming to support livelihoods, empower girls and end child marriage.