UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Monday that at current rates of reduction, it will take more than 100 years to end child marriage in West and Central Africa.
The new projections, released during a high-level meeting on ending child marriage held in Dakar, capital and largest city of Senegal, this week, aim to bring the spotlight on the region of the world where girls face the highest risk of marrying in childhood.
While the prevalence of child marriage in West and Central Africa has declined over the past two decades, progress has been uneven, and still four in 10 women are married before the age of 18 and, of these, one in three before the age of 15, said UNICEF.
West and Central Africa includes six of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world: Niger; Central African Republic; Chad; Mali; Burkina Faso and Guinea.
Driven by factors including poverty, insecurity and religious tradition, marrying off girls once they reach puberty or even before is a deeply ingrained social custom in much of West and Central Africa.
The practice hampers global efforts to reduce poverty and population growth and has negative impacts on women's and children's health, educational achievements and earnings, the World Bank has said.