COVID-19 has upended the lives of children and families across the globe and is impacting efforts to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). Actions taken to contain the spread of the pandemic – such as school closures and movement restrictions – are disrupting children’s routines and their support systems.
Hundreds of millions of children and adolescents will likely face increasing threats to their safety and well-being, including gender-based violence (GBV), exploitation, abuse and neglect, social exclusion, and/or separation from caregivers and friends.
We know from the Ebola outbreaks and from other public health crises that adolescent girls are disproportionally affected by these emergencies. Efforts to stop the Ebola epidemics led to school closures and a loss of education; a decrease in access to reproductive health information and services; a loss of livelihoods and a contraction of social support networks. These undermine strategies to end FGM and child marriage, and threaten the progress that has been made over the past decade.