Zambia: Vulnerable Women, Girls in Need of Assistance

The drought in Zambia that has increased the vulnerability of women and girls, leading to a surge in child marriages, HIV infections, and hunger, should be paid attention to.

Development Diaries reports that though a historic law became enforceable in December 2023 to address a high number of child marriages in the country, more girls are reportedly dropping out of school due to fears they would be forced into marriage as families struggle to make ends meet.

According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there are worrying trends, particularly among teenage girls, such as rising rates of HIV and unintended pregnancy.

The prolonged dry spells have devastated agricultural production, leading to food shortages and increased economic hardship for families.

As a coping mechanism, many families are resorting to marrying off their daughters at a young age to reduce the number of mouths to feed and to secure dowries.

This practice not only deprives girls of their childhood and education but also exposes them to various forms of abuse and exploitation, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Also, women and girls who must walk farther and farther to gather water are more vulnerable to coercion and sexual abuse.

The crisis has contributed to a rise in HIV infections among women and girls. Economic desperation has led to an increase in transactional sex, with young girls and women engaging in risky behaviours to obtain food, money, or other necessities.

The lack of access to health care services and education has made the situation worse, leaving many without the knowledge or means to protect themselves from HIV.

Hunger remains a pressing issue as the drought continues to ravage crops and livestock, which are the primary sources of food and income for many Zambian families.

Addressing the drought emergency in Zambia requires a comprehensive approach that includes immediate humanitarian aid, long-term support for agricultural resilience, and targeted interventions to protect the rights and health of women and girls.

Development Diaries calls on the Zambian government to urgently address the devastating impact of this drought, and implement comprehensive and immediate measures to provide essential resources, support services, and educational initiatives that prioritise the health and safety of women and girls.

The swift action of the government is crucial to safeguarding the future of Zambia’s women and girls.

Photo source: Doctors Without Borders


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