New York, US – A UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report released on Wednesday has called on governments to help girls achieve their full potential through education and adequate health services, in order to check the high rates of teenage pregnancies.
PANA in New York reports that the UNFPA said in developing countries, about 7.3 million adolescent births were recorded annually.
The report, entitled: “The State of World Population 2013: Motherhood in childhood: Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy”, noted that out of the 7.3 million births, 2 million were to girls who were 14 years or younger, many of whom suffered grave long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy, such as obstetric fistula.
It also stated that an estimated 70,000 adolescents in developing countries died each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
It quoted UNFPA Executive Director, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, as saying that too often, society blamed only the girl for getting pregnant.
“However, the reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control,” Mr. Osotimehin noted.
He said it was a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.
“We must reflect on and urge changes to the policies and norms of families, communities and governments that often leave a girl with no other choice, but a path to early pregnancy.
“This is what we are doing at UNFPA and what we will continue to do and recommend until every girl is able to choose the direction of her life, own her future and achieve her greatest potential,” the UNFPA chief added.
The report also seeks to offer a new perspective on teenage pregnancy, looking not only at girls’ behaviour as a cause of early pregnancy, but also at the actions of their families,
communities and governments.
It stressed that early pregnancy took a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights.
It also prevented her from realising her potential and adversely impacted the baby and a country’s economy was also affected by teenage pregnancies as adolescent mothers were prevented from entering the workforce, the report said.
The report said in Kenya, for example, if the more than 200,000 teenage mothers had been employed instead of becoming pregnant, US$3.4 billion could have been added to the
Similarly, if girls in Brazil and India had been able to wait until their early 20s to give birth, the countries would have had greater economic productivity equal to more than US$3.5 billion and
US$7.7 billion, respectively.
The report noted that countries must not only increase efforts to prevent teenage pregnancies, they must also invest more in girls as currently the global community directed less than
two cents of every dollar spent on international development to adolescent girls.
In addition to funding, it stressed that to tackle teenage pregnancy, countries must adopt a holistic approach which did not dwell on changing girls’ behaviour, but sought to change attitudes in society so girls were encouraged to stay in school.
It also called for ban on child marriage, girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health including contraception, and better support system for young mothers.