London: Women and girls have been hit the hardest by the global recession, according to child rights and development organisations.
A report by Plan International and the Overseas Development Institute said that a shrinking economy has sent girls' infant mortality soaring, reports the BBC.
Nigel Chapman, chief executive of child rights organisation Plan International and author of the report, said the problems started when the girls were very young. The proportion of baby girls who died when the economy shrank rose five times faster than the proportion of baby boys who died, he said.
As the recession caused poverty to spread, older girls were increasingly taken out of school, the report said. Primary school completion for girls fell 29 percent whereas for boys it fell 22 percent, the report said.
Many girls were taken out of school to help out at home because their mothers had to work longer hours for less pay, the report stated.
In many cases, an increase in the number of child marriages was observed once the downturn hit. Poverty-struck families could not afford to feed those mouths, so they'd marry them off early. Others were sent out to work as child labourers - sometimes as sex workers, Chapman said.
At home, girls and women would often eat less to make sure the main "breadwinner" had enough to eat, so the levels of food shortages and malnutrition were more common among girls than boys, with women often making even greater sacrifices for their children, the report said.
Meanwhile, girls and women suffered more neglect and abuse than they did before the economic downturn. When pregnant, they received less help than previously, leaving girls between 14 and 19 particularly at risk of death in pregnancy, the report said.
To solve the problem, international programmes must be set up to ensure young women are properly fed, to protect them socially, to make sure they get to go to school and to create jobs for them after they have finished their education, the report recommended.