Hunger crisis forcing Ethiopian girls into child marriage

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Agnes McGrane, Tearfund UK
/ Categories: Disasters and Conflict

It's been years since there has been a rainy season in some parts of Ethiopia. Water sources have dried up. Crops can no longer grow in the parched earth. Livestock are dying. Millions of people are going hungry. And hunger is not the only threat as the crisis escalates, more girls are at risk of child marriage.


Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with an estimated 40 per cent of girls marrying before the age of 18. And in areas experiencing extended periods of drought - a symptom of the climate crisis - there has recently been a dramatic increase in girls being forced to marry while they are still children.


Devastated by drought

Rural communities rely on rearing livestock and growing their own crops, both to eat and to sell for income. The drought has made their way of life impossible. Families don’t have enough food or water for their children, let alone their animals.


“In these desperate circumstances, families may resort to marrying their daughters off to wealthier families,” says Simba Nyamarezi, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Ethiopia. “They sometimes believe that their daughters will have better chances of survival this way, and they can also use the money from the daughter’s dowry to feed their other children.”


A mother walks with her children across the dry, infertile land in a drought-affected area of Ethiopia. Credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund


Finding water

“Girls are often responsible for collecting water for their families. Because of the drought, they are now having to walk long distances to find water, so they are dropping out of school," explains Sabine Nkusi, who leads Tearfund's gender unit. “Not only are they missing out on an education, but girls immediately become more vulnerable to gender-based violence, including child marriage, when they are out of school.”


A child collects water from a water pump in Ethiopia. Credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund


A life-threatening crisis

People in drought-affected regions remain in desperate need of humanitarian support. We are  working with our local partners in Ethiopia to provide emergency food packs to thousands of the most vulnerable families. 


“We are doing everything we can to support the most vulnerable communities to recover from this hunger crisis, but more resources are needed,” says Simba. “Please pray that Tearfund and our local partners will be able to reach more people in need. And pray especially for the protection of young girls, that their families will not resort to child marriage.”


Pray with us

+ Pray that Tearfund and our local partners will be able to get food, clean water, and essential supplies to people facing hunger.

+ Pray for protection over young girls in Ethiopia who are at risk of child marriage. Ask that they will be able to continue their education and that they will be valued as God’s precious daughters by their communities.

+ Pray for an end to the drought, for rain to finally fall and crops to grow again.


*Name changed to protect identity.


This drought is one of the reasons an estimated 50 million in East Africa are on the brink of famine. We must act now to save lives and stop child marriages. 

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Other posts by Agnes McGrane, Tearfund UK

Agnes McGrane, Tearfund UK

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