COVID 19 is likely to contribute to an increase in cases of child marriages in peri and urban communities in Uganda. Increasing poverty due to loss of incomes resulting from shut down of businesses has made a challenging situation more complex. In Uganda, a number of women earn a living from road side food vending which is done from 5pm onwards. Unfortunately, since March 2020, travel restrictions and curfew instituted to prevent the spread of COVID 19 has left many women in peri urban settings with no incomes but to survive by chance. Road side food vending businesses have been grossly affected since it’s harder to maintain social distance. Children especially adolescents are likely to make poor SRH decisions especially when parents fail to provide food and other basic needs.
Schools are instrumental in protecting girls from child marriages as senior women and men teachers play a vital role in providing age appropriate sexual reproductive health information enabling children especially girls make informed SRH decisions. COVID 19 has led to close down of schools. In Uganda, schools are expected to open to candidates leaving more girls in communities. When schools remain closed, girls are at a high risk of being forced into child marriages. It’s at this point that parents need to revisit their roles and spear head discussions on sexual reproductive health that will enable girls make informed decisions about their sexuality.
This is a complex matrix since organizations and service providers are increasingly less in the communities because of the social distancing strategy. It’s important that girls remain girls. We call upon various actors to support initiatives aimed at preventing child marriages during these tough time.