A recent assessment by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reveals a dramatic increase in child marriage within Bangladesh’s highly disaster-prone and climate-vulnerable coastal regions, particularly in Bhola and Shatkhira. The study reveals a staggering 39% surge in child marriage after climate-induced disasters, and the IRC is calling for increased and sustainable funding for climate change and the urgent collaboration of the government, donors, and non-government to address this compounded crisis.
The impact of climate change on many coastal communities in Bangladesh includes forced migration, extreme poverty, increased gender-based violence, limited access to education, and food security challenges, and the increase in child marriage can be directly attributed to the increase in disasters such as flooding and cyclones over the last two decades.
To address these issues, the IRC is actively assessing the situation and mobilizing resources to protect children from harm due to climate change and climate-induced disasters. Recent efforts include an in-depth study on child rights in Cox’s Bazar district, with recommendations shared with the key stakeholders in Bangladesh. The IRC prioritizes vulnerable children who are exposed to neglect, abuse, and exploitation, offers survivor-centered case management, comprehensive psychosocial support, positive coping strategies, and improved emotional well-being, and fosters positive parenting to sensitize communities against child labor, child marriage, and other harms.
In addition, the IRC is a member of a Norwegian Refugee Council-led consortium working to deliver a new £2 million programme funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), supporting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The IRC’s activities will include health services, gender-based violence prevention and response among the community, as well as child protection and case management services focused on women and children.
Hasina Rahman, IRC Bangladesh Director, said,
“Every child deserves the right to life, survival, and development. Bangladesh is one of the countries most susceptible to climate change in the world and contributes the least, which means that children are becoming more vulnerable to communities turning to extreme survival methods.
“Today in Bangladesh, half of girls are married before their 18th birthday while 22% are married before the age of 15. This situation is, however, more volatile for the girls living in coastal areas, who are facing food insecurity and poverty, irregular rain patterns, rising temperatures, and heightened frequency and intensity of disasters.
“This is a multi-layered crisis and must be addressed firstly by improving access to education for girls in climate-vulnerable communities, as this is a significant barrier for girls to become child brides. In a post-disaster situation, 86% of girls face an increased workload in their households; therefore, they cannot concentrate on their studies. Moreover, extreme poverty in this region affects children’s enrollment rates in educational institutes. Inadequate numbers of qualified teachers, poor transportation networks, and the use of schools as shelters during disasters disrupt educational services. On top of that, challenges regarding the lack of a formal mechanism for reporting abuse and exploitation at service points, especially during disasters, demand immediate attention.
“The IRC is calling for the Government of Bangladesh to establish a formal reporting mechanism for child abuse and exploitation along with the establishment of child-friendly spaces accessible within communities, provision of psychosocial support, and recreational activities. Meanwhile, sustainable and uninterrupted funding is required to mitigate the disastrous impacts of climate change on children. Without these steps, girls in Bangladesh are likely to continue to be forced into early marriage for generations to come.”
Source : IRC