Number of African child brides to soar by 2050 as population grows: U.N.

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In a new report released by U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the organisation warns that the number of child brides in Africa could more than double to 310 million by 2050, if current practices continue. Just over one in three African girls marry before the age of 18, most commonly in poor, rural families which often receive a bride price or dowry in exchange for their daughter.

BOROMA, SOMALIA (UNICEF) – A new report by the U.N. Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), presented at the African Union (A.U.) Girls Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, indicates that the number of child brides in Africa will more than double by 2050 if current trends persist, because of rapid population growth and limited social change.

Africa will overtake South Asia as the region with the largest number of child brides, their number soaring to 310 million, more than 40 percent of the global total, in 2050, up from 125 million, 25 percent of the total, today.

The A.U. launched a campaign earlier this year to end child marriage. The minimum legal marriage age is 15 in about a dozen African countries, and change is gradual.

Just over one in three African girls marry before the age of 18, most commonly in poor, rural families which often receive a bride price or dowry in exchange for their daughter.

Africa’s population of girls under 18 is predicted to rise from 275 million today – 25 percent of the global total – to 465 million by 2050, 38 percent of the total.

Virtually no progress has been made among the poorest African families, where the likelihood that a girl will marry as a child is as high today as it was 25 years ago.

In families that struggle to feed, clothe and educate their children, marriage is often seen as the best chance to secure a girl’s future and safeguard her chastity.

UNICEF says it is also important to increase girls’ access to reproductive health services so that they have fewer, safer pregnancies and can break the cycle of poverty.

Child brides are more likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth and to be beaten, raped or infected with HIV by their husbands than women who marry later.

Children born to teenage mothers have a higher risk of being stillborn, dying soon after birth and having low birth weight.

African governments also need to make sure that more girls’ births are registered so that their age is known, and to enforce laws prohibiting child marriage, UNICEF said.

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