THE United Nations (UN) has said the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause a spike in child marriages and prostitution as families seek other coping mechanisms in the wake of the deteriorating financial and food security situation.

BY PRECIOUS CHIDA/LORRAINE MUROMO

Zimbabwe has recently experienced a spike in cases of gender-based violence where more women and children have been abused during the COVID-19 lockdown that started on March 30.

“The anticipated economic fallout of COVID-19 could result in more child or early marriages, transactional sex, child labour and gender-based violence as coping strategies to financial and food insecurity in Zimbabwe,” UN said in a report yesterday.

“Additionally, women’s and especially adolescent girls’ reproductive rights are likely to remain unmet as the government prioritises other expenditures, including health sector expenditures, towards the fight against the pandemic. In addition, the resultant economic stress on families due to the pandemic is likely to give rise to negative coping mechanisms.”

The UN said it had decided to include a component in the initial recovery response to COVID-19, focused on addressing gender inequalities to build an equal and resilient society.

The emerging evidence on the impact of COVID-19 has also shown that the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, mainly gender inequalities, the UN said.

“The pandemic has also exposed or exacerbated the structural inequalities in the social, political and economic domains, further marginalising women and girls facing intersecting forms of discrimination such as women living with HIV, women and girls with disabilities, and elderly women among others,” the UN added.

In collaboration with other development partners and in consultation with the government of Zimbabwe, the UN said it had also launched a joint response to the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on the Zimbabwean economy which is a framework for integrated policy analysis and support.

The report also indicated that the UN was intensifying its efforts towards COVID-19 preparedness and response to the delivery of essential health services for the prevention and treatment of non-COVID-19-related conditions.

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