Nairobi [Kenya], June 29 (ANI/Xinhua): Child marriage is on the increase in the Horn of Africa region as the severe drought in 40 years pushes families to the edge, the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF warned Wednesday.
UNICEF's Regional Child Protection Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa Andy Brooks said girls as young as 12 years are being forced into child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) at "alarming rates" in the Horn of Africa.
"We are seeing alarming rates of child marriage and FGM across the Horn of Africa -- with some destitute families arranging to marry off girls as young as 12 to men more than five times their age," Brooks said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
The UN agency said child marriage in Ethiopian regions worst affected by the drought has more than doubled in a year.
"The figures we have do not capture the magnitude of the problem: large swathes of the Horn of Africa have no specialist facilities where cases can be reported," Brooks said.
UNICEF said families are facing desperate choices to survive as drought, driven by climate change, dries up water sources and kills livestock, and the domino effect of the conflict in Ukraine exacerbates spiralling food and fuel prices.
Four rainy seasons have failed in the space of two years in the Horn of Africa region, with forecasts suggesting a fifth rainy season from October to December is also likely to fail.
According to UNICEF, the number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the drought has tripled in the space of three months -- from 1.1 million to an estimated 3.3 million children.
"This is a children's crisis, and we urgently need more funding to scale up our response in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia -- not only to save lives in the short-term but to protect them in the long-term," Brooks said. (ANI/Xinhua)