Worsening drought in parts of Ethiopia is leading to “dramatic” increases in child marriage, UNICEF warns. Desperate parents are resorting to wealthier families to provide for and protect their daughters, and are being forced to seek additional resources in the form of dowries, Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, told The Guardian. Ethiopia has emitted a negligible amount of the world’s historic climate pollution, which is making droughts more frequent and severe, as failed rains three years in a row across Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti have pushed more than 600,000 children to drop out of school, a precursor to exploitation, and gender-based violence.

The impact on girls forced into child marriages can be “debilitating,” Russell added. “It really cuts off all of their opportunities … they’re young, so they’re not in a position to negotiate safe sex with their partners. It’s just one problem after another for these girls.” In 2016, before the drought, 40% of Ethiopian girls were married before 18, and 14% before they’re 15. While UNICEF recorded 672 cases of child marriage in the first half of 2021, that number ballooned to 2,282 between September 2021 to March of 2022. (The Guardian, The Independent; Climate Signals background: Drought)