According to a report by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed on Thursday, Nigeria has the largest number of child marriages in Africa.
Mauritania, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic rank among countries where under-age marriages thrive in Africa but Nigeria, with 23 million, is home to the largest number of child brides.
As delegates met in Zambia to discuss how to halt the practice, UNICEF warns child marriages in Africa is likely to double by 2050 unless urgent steps are taken.
“The child population of Africa is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years putting millions more girls at risk,” the UNICEF report published as the meeting opened in Zambia said.
UNICEF deputy executive director, Fatoumata Ndiaye told AFP in a phone interview from Lusaka, “The total number of child brides will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050… if we do not do something now. That means that the face of child marriage will be Africa.”
The two-day meeting in Lusaka is the African Union’s first conference on “Ending Child Marriage in Africa,”, gathering representatives from member states as well as first ladies, UN officials and civil society groups.
The African Union estimates that about 14 million under-age girls are married on the continent each year — almost all of them forced to by their parents owing to poverty and traditional customs, against laws that are rarely enforced.