Families marry off daughters to ease finances amid COVID-19

KOIDU, Sierra Leone (AP) — Marriages of underage girls are on the rise as the coronavirus pandemic deepens poverty around the world, threatening to undo years of work by activists trying to stop the tradition in countries such as Sierra Leone. The United Nations estimates that hardships resulting from COVID-19 will drive 13 million more girls to marry before the age of 18. This year alone, Save the Children estimates nearly half a million more girls underage girls are at risk of being married off worldwide, most in Africa and Asia. In most cases, needy parents receive a dowry for their daughter — a bit of land or livestock that can provide income, or cash and a promise to take over financial responsibility for the young bride.