The humanitarian organization Save the Children recently released The Global Girlhood Report 2021, which details the devastating effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on women’s rights, particularly the dramatic increase in child marriages and associated pregnancy deaths during the pandemic.
Hitting Girls Hardest
Last year, Save the Children warned about the devastating effects of lockdowns, and this year the increase in tragedies and deaths are showing up in the statistics. According to the report, 22,000 underage girls die of pregnancy after marriage per year globally. That amounts to 60 girls every day. They expect the problems from lockdowns to continue: “A further 10 million girls are now expected to marry by 2030, leaving more girls at risk of dying.”
The report also details that the economic downturn caused by the lockdowns disproportionally hit the poorest hardest, especially girls. More girls than boys are being held back from going to school to help the family with chores and child labor at home for survival. “On average, girls in poorer countries missed 22% more days in school than boys.”
More girls than boys are expected to never return to school. In Kenya, when the schools reopened, 16% of the girls did not return compared to 8% of the boys. Similar numbers are seen across many developing countries.
Save the Children also warns that the severe isolation of children and lack of education is causing mental health problems and risk of self-harm. Marie Dahl, Head of Save the Children’s Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Unit, said that “Children living in poverty or already in disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable situations are at greater risk of the damaging consequences of long-lasting lockdowns.”
A survey of 13,000 children in 46 countries showed that 83% reported negative feelings due to the pandemic. That number increased to 96% when schools were closed for 17 to 19 weeks.
Save the Children’s data corroborates a 2021 U.N. report that found between 120 million and 180 million people globally had been plunged into hunger due to COVID lockdowns. In desperation, many of the poorest marry off their underage daughters for survival. Still, malnourishment and hunger deaths are rising, and the U.N. expects the dark trend to continue.
The Human Cost
COVID-19 is possibly unique among pandemics throughout history; the cure that the world’s politicians have chosen is killing and destroying more lives than the disease. Among pandemics, COVID-19 is mild and primarily harms people in rich countries who have had sufficient material wealth to live at least 75 years. By contrast, the lockdowns are severely hurting hundreds of millions of poor and children.
Save the Children, the U.N., and other organizations report the devastating effects of the lockdowns, but their warnings and documentations appear to be mostly ignored. When grown-ups make poor decisions, children often suffer the most.
~ Read more from Caroline Adana.