Hunger Forces Ethiopian Girls to Marry Too Early

Drought animals africa

Severe drought in Ethiopia is increasing child marriage as parents struggle to feed their children

In some areas of Ethiopia, it has been years since the rainy season. Water supplies have run dry. Crops cannot grow in arid soil, and animals are dying. Millions of people are starving. And starvation isn’t the only threat: as the situation worsens, more girls face underage marriage.

Ethiopia has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, with an estimated 40% of females marrying before the age of 18. And, in places facing prolonged drought – a hallmark of the climate catastrophe – there has recently been a substantial increase in girls compelled to marry when they are still children.

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‘In these desperate circumstances, families may resort to marrying their daughters off to wealthier families.’

Drought has devastated the region

Rural populations rely on raising animals and cultivating their crops for food and money. The drought has rendered their way of life difficult. Families do not have enough food or water for their children or pets.

‘In these dire times, families may turn to marry off their daughters to richer families,’ says Simba Nyamarezi, who heads Tearfund’s operations in Ethiopia. ‘They sometimes feel that by doing so, their daughters would have a greater chance of surviving, and they can also utilize the money from the daughter’s dowry to support their other children.’

A life-threatening emergency

Despite this improvement, individuals in drought-affected areas continue to need humanitarian assistance severely. Tearfund works with local partners to give emergency food, monetary support, and necessities.

‘We are doing everything we can to assist the most vulnerable communities to recover from this food catastrophe,’ adds Simba. ‘Please pray for Tearfund and our local partners to be able to reach more individuals in need. And, in particular, pray for the protection of young girls so that their families do not resort to child marriage.’

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