From being removed from school to forced marriage, girls are caught between impossible choices for survival as severe food shortages sweep across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, warns child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.
The ongoing food crisis in the four countries is compounded by severe drought, devastation caused by cyclone Idai, conflict and economic downturn.
“Plan International is extremely concerned by the increasing number of adolescent girls experiencing food insecurity, especially cases where they are being traded off as brides by family members in an effort to earn the next meal,” Stuart Katwikirize, Plan International’s Regional Head of Disaster Risk Management, said.
“Limited access to basic sanitation services including menstrual hygiene products and safe drinking water also very concerning. Adolescent girls from highly food-insecure areas in rural areas are considerably more likely to migrate to cities to seek food and an income. These girls face increased risks of coerced and transactional sex and exploitative labour, as well as social isolation.”
Plan international is calling on the international donor community and governments to provide urgent assistance to millions in desperate need, particularly children and adolescent girls who are at highest risk.
Plan International Australia’s CEO Susanne Legena said the multi-country crisis was expected to become a full-blown emergency by early 2020, with the situation rapidly deteriorating conditions across four countries.
“Our priority is to support children, with a particular focus on vulnerable girls who we know are already resorting to desperate measures like early marriage. They are at grave risk,” Ms Legena said.
“The risk of exposure to domestic violence and intimate partner violence is also expected to increase as a consequence of heightened family tensions during the lean season.
“We are extremely worried about the scale of this emergency and we know that without at its expected peak, millions will suffer malnutrition and we will see loss of life. Now is the time for Governments to consider increasing funding to food programs in these regions.”
Overview of a multi-country food crisis:
A poor January-March 2019 rainy season in southern provinces (Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane) has caused substantial agricultural losses, with lingering effects expected to last until the next main harvest in February 2020.
Anne Hoff, Country Director, Plan International Mozambique said: “Adolescent girls and women are typically more affected by drought because it is their job to find water and food for the family, therefore they are more likely to drop out of school to care for their younger siblings as their parents travel long distances looking for food.”
Jane Gardner, Media & Ambassador Manager, 0438 130 905/ [email protected]
About Plan International Australia
Plan International Australia works around the world to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice for children. Plan International strives to make girls truly visible: acknowledging their power and potential, and taking a stand when they are exploited, discriminated against and silenced – this includes abroad and in Australia.