Girls are most at risk of child marriage during humanitarian crises and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

The humanitarian organization Save the Children released a report entitled "Global Girlhood 2020: COVID-19 and progress in peril" on Wednesday. The report revealed that the pandemic put an additional 500,000 girls at risk of child marriage — the marriage of a girl under the age of 18. As many as 1 million more girls are also expected to become pregnant as a result of the crisis.

As more families are being pushed into poverty, they are resorting to child marriage as an option to alleviate financial burdens, according to Save the Children CEO Janti Soeripto.

"A growing risk of violence and sexual exploitation, combined with growing food and economic insecurity — especially in humanitarian emergencies — also means many parents feel they have little alternative but to force their girls to marry men who are often much older," Soeripto said in a press release issued to Global Citizen.

The data analyzed in the report exceeds predictions and demonstrates a spike in child marriage with a year-over-year increase of 3% in 2019 and 4% in 2020. The uptick is expected to undo 25 years of progress that prevented 78.6 million girls from entering into child marriages.

"It’s time for world leaders to come together to protect a generation of girls so they don’t miss out on the life-changing opportunities they’re just as entitled to as boys, including education," said Soeripto. "Girls must have a seat at any decision-making table that involves their rights so they can design the future they choose."

Read the full article about child marriages increase during COVID-19 by Leah Rodriguez at Global Citizen.