Child marriage has more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic with numbers set to increase, World Vision warns  

Thursday, May 20, 2021
  • New analysis from World Vision reveals that between March and December 2020, child marriages more than doubled in several communities* compared to 2019. The international aid agency warns that these alarming rates are set to rise, due to the impact of the COVID 19 outbreak.  
  • COVID-19 has generated the largest increase in child marriages in 25 years and World Vision warns that an additional four million girls could be married by 2023 

  • World Vision partners with faith leaders, children and local authorities in over 70 countries to change laws, social norms and prevent child marriage*.  

A new report, ‘Breaking The Chain’, published today by World Vision reveals that child marriage has more than doubled in several communities between March and December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. This follows the aid agency’s predictions that deepening poverty in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak will leave a further four million girls at risk of child marriage by 2022. 

World Vision staff responded to more than twice the amount of child marriage reports during the coronavirus outbreak from March 2020. The aid agency suggests this surge in child marriage is likely due to loss of livelihoods during the pandemic, rising poverty and lack of access to education and support services.  

Dana Buzducea, World Vision International Advocacy and External Engagement Partnership Leader, said: “We believe childhood is sacred, so it is heart-breaking that every year 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Every one of these is a tragedy with far-reaching effects – empty seats in classrooms, girls treated as a commodity, lost economic and human potential. We know that economic desperation within families, poverty and harmful attitudes are some of the factors that drive child marriage, particularly in the most fragile places in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have increased the pressure on families, threatening girls’ rights to live a safe childhood and realise their potential. 

“A further four million girls could be married off because of this pandemic, and we are already seeing this in several communities. We can’t afford to wait; more futures will be ruined unless crucial changes are made to protect young girls.  

“Governments, donors and partners must do more to ensure laws that protect children are upheld and to design a robust global response to end child marriage,” Buzducea adds.  

The aid agency is urging the international community to work together to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years old and to ensure child marriage prevention laws are present and implemented.  

Research shows that delaying marriage and keeping girls in school is a significant key to their healthy development and future economic opportunities.  

“Women and girls are powerful agents of change in ending child marriage. Dola is 16 and with her friends has saved hundreds of girls from being married off in Bangladesh alone. These young female leaders are fighting for the rights of their peers, and in doing so are breaking the chain of vulnerability and inequity that child marriage causes,” says Buzducea. 

“Child marriage is a war for us and we are warriors. One day we believe we will win.” – Dola, 16, Secretary of the National Child Forum, Bangladesh, and World Vision Young Leader. 


Note to editor: 

For further information or to organise an interview with Dana Buzducea or Dola, please contact:

Niamh Cooper |  Director of Media and Social Media Engagement | | Skype: Niamh.cooper5 | Phone: +353 87 942 3371

*The report, Breaking The Chain, compiles research and data from four unique contexts – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Senegal and Uganda – where World Vision has been working to address the issue of child marriage. In each of these countries, case studies were developed using first-hand accounts, a desk review of available data and evidence of promising practices towards eliminating child marriage.  

*In World Vision community projects within the countries listed above, staff responded to double the amount of child marriage reports from March to December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.   

The impacts of COVID-19 are severely hindering progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and targets related to eliminating child marriage (SDG 5.3) and all forms of violence against children by 2030.i Our global campaign “It takes a world to end violence against children” – has been implemented in 65 countries, with national campaigns focused on ending child marriage in 21 of those countries. Click here to learn more.  

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.  For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @WorldVision