President Edgar Lungu says African leaders must accelerate their efforts to end child marriage because it is an impediment to the continent’s development.

ZANIS reported that President Lungu was speaking when he hosted his Ugandan and Malawian counterparts Yoweri Museveni and Peter Mutharika respectively and Canadian Deputy Minister of International Development Diane Jacovella, during the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

President Lungu noted that in order to end the scourge by 2030, it was vital to ensure that girls had access to quality education, legislative reforms and a change of societal harmful norms and practices.

“It is good to see that most African Union member states have institutionalized the fight against through the development and implementation of the national strategies. This shows that we are getting somewhere,” President Lungu said.

He added that marrying off girls at a tender age exposed them to serious health risks such as maternal mortality, and sexual and domestic violence.

President Lungu also said the Zambian government would continue engaging traditional leaders in rising awareness through campaigns against child marriages.

“The current prevalence rate stands at 31 percent depicting a 10.8 percent drop from the 42 percent at inception of the campaign. We shall continue to undertake various interventions including partnering with our traditional leader to fight the scourge” said President Lungu.

And UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abidi commended President Lungu for his efforts towards ending child marriages, as the African Union Champion.
“Africa is making tremendous progress to end child marriages which could not be possible without good leadership,” Abidi said.

Meanwhile, President Museveni said there was need to step up sensitization programmes on the importance of educating girls and empowering women, if Africa has to end the scourge.

And President Mutharika said leaders on the African continent must commit themselves to investing in the welfare of young people as a measure to sustain development.