Horn of Africa, with climate emergency plus early marriages and female genital mutilation

UNICEF’s alarm: In the drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, child marriage has more than doubled on average in one year. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the crisis has tripled in three months, leaving adolescents at risk for a number of risks, such as female genital mutilation and early marriage.

© UNICEF / UN0651316 / Pouget

Dassenech Woreda (southern Ethiopia): A 13-year-old girl forced to drop out of school and marry a stranger to help her family

ROME – UNICEF warns that the The rate of girls and young people up to the age of 12 forced into forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) is at an alarming level in the Horn of Africa.while the worst drought of the last forty years has pushed families to the limit.

According to an analysis of the organization, in the drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, child marriage has doubled on average in one year.. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the crisis has tripled in three monthsleaving a large number of adolescent girls exposed to a number of child protection risks, such as female genital mutilation and early marriage.

“In the Horn of Africa, families are making desperate decisions to survive the drought, due to climate change that drains water sources and kills livestock, and the domino effect of the war in Ukraine that aggravates the ‘food and fuel price spiral,’ UNICEF stresses. -. More than 1.8 million children in the region are in urgent need of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, with 213,000 people at risk of starvation in Somalia., according to the Hunger Early Warning Network. An increasing number of parents or caregivers marry girls to secure a dowry to help support the rest of the family, to have one less mouth to feed, or in an effort to help the bride be part of a family. more comfortable “.

Data on early marriages and female genital mutilation are limited, due to a lack of information and services in the region. Unicef’s analysis of available government data and humanitarian assessments found that: in the Horn of Africa region, a growing number of girls are at risk of dropping out of school as the crisis it gets worse, putting them at greater risk for early marriage and female genital mutilation. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the drought has tripled in three months, from 1.1 million to 3.3 million. children. Besides, then Ethiopiaaccording to local government sources, Child marriage increased by an average of 119% in the regions most affected by the drought – Somali, Oromia, Region of Nations, Nationality and Peoples of the South – between January and April 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. cases of Female genital mutilation in the Region of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the South increased by 27%. “Due to the impact of the drought, gifts of money, food and livestock are declining, which means families may consider marrying even more girls. The crisis is also driving people away from their homes. including social and community workers who supported families to protect girls from child marriage and female genital mutilation. ”

And again: in an evaluation performed in Somaliland, in January, about a quarter of those surveyed reported an increase in gender-based violence due to the drought. that includes early marriage, domestic and sexual violence, with a 50% increase in several areas. Another humanitarian needs assessment in Puntland in February found that child marriages accounted for 59% of reported cases. many of which also involved female genital mutilation.

too in Kenya girls face increased risks of early marriage and genital mutilation. “In In 14 of the 23 counties affected by the drought, female genital mutilation reaches 98% prevalence rates. Girls in these areas are at risk for genital mutilation at an early age, as families prepare them for marriage. There are also reports of girls living in border regions who were relocated to neighboring countries to undergo genital mutilation or marry older men in neighboring countries. “

In the region, women and girls in drought-affected areas have to travel long distances to access water and other basic resources, thus becoming vulnerable to sexual violence. In Kenya, according to a Kenyan Red Cross analysis, women and girls walk three times as much as in the past, up to 30 km in some places.

In the Horn of Africa, 4 rainy seasons have been skipped in two years and forecasts indicate that the fifth rainy season, from October to December, could also fail. The war in Ukraine is accelerating the crisis. There Only Somalia imported 92% of the grain from Russia and Ukraine, but supply lines are now blocked. With rising food prices, families are unable to buy basic necessities.

“We are seeing an alarming rate of early marriage and female genital mutilation in the Horn of Africa, with destitute families arranging the marriage of 12-year-old girls to men who are more than five times their age. he stated Andy Brooks, UNICEF Regional Adviser on Child Protection in East and Southern Africa –. Early marriage and female genital mutilation end childhood, expelling girls from school and making them more vulnerable to domestic violence and lifelong poverty. These data do not cover the scale of the problem: large areas of the Horn of Africa do not have specialized structures where cases can be reported. This is a child crisis and we urgently need more funding to increase our response in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, not only to save lives in the short term, but also to protect them in the long term. ”

Unicef ​​is working to expand child protection and gender-based violence services to respond to the growing need for protection among vulnerable women and children in the Horn of Africa. This includes programs that involve communities to reduce the risks of violence, exploitation, abuse, and early marriage, and offer services to help women and children overcome violence.

The organization calls for services to be expanded to ensure child protection and respond to gender-based violence, even through permanent services and mobile equipment to reach the most vulnerable.. Unicef’s call for drought in the Horn of Africa received less than a third of the requested funds.

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