News / Health

UN: For Millions of Adolescents, Pregnancy Can Be Dangerous

FILE - Aey, a 20-year old mother of three, holds her son at their home in a Bangkok's slum October 7, 2012.
FILE - Aey, a 20-year old mother of three, holds her son at their home in a Bangkok's slum October 7, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
A new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) finds millions of adolescent girls suffer serious long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy.  Globally, the U.N. agency estimates 7.3 million girls under 18-years-old give birth, including two million girls younger than 14.

Giving birth to a baby should be a happy moment in the life of a woman.  But, for millions of adolescents around the world, early pregnancy and childbirth results in serious health problems, social exclusion and even death.

In developing countries, 20,000 girls under 18 give birth every day, the report says.  It estimates some 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.  Among those who survive, many will develop an obstetric fistula. This is a hole in the birth canal, which leaves the girl leaking urine constantly.  

x
The director of the UNFPA office in Geneva, Alanna Armitage, says adolescent girls are at increased risk of child marriage and sexual coercion.  Maternal death among girls under the age of 15 from low- and middle-income countries is twice that of older females," says Armitage.

“Our report shows that nine out of 10 pregnancies to girls under 18 take place within a marriage. And, as you may know, every day, 39,000 girls are married in violation of their basic human rights.  One in nine is married before the age of 15 and this, of course, will continue as long as families, communities and governments tolerate child marriage," she said.

The report highlights the economic impact of adolescent pregnancy.  It notes the lifetime opportunity costs related to adolescent pregnancy range from one percent of annual GDP in China to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.

To drive this point home, the report notes $3.4 billion could have been added to the Kenyan economy had the more than 200,000 adolescent mothers in the country been employed rather than pregnant.

The report finds in every region of the world, impoverished, poorly educated rural girls are more likely to become pregnant than those who live in richer, more urban areas.  UNFPA Senior Maternal Health Advisor Luc de Bernis says the highest rates of adolescent maternal mortality are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

He says the problem is marginally greater in the Francophone than the English-speaking African countries.  

“Africa is not homogeneous and we have many differences, but the fact is young girls are not protected in the majority of these countries -- not in the Francophone for sure...and not in the English speaking world," said Bernis. "In Kenya, Uganda, you have a rate of abortion which is absolutely enormous and it explains a big part of the maternal mortality.  A big number of these abortions occur among very young girls.”  

x
The report says adolescent pregnancy is a much bigger challenge in the developing world than in developed countries.  But it finds that adolescent pregnancy is still a significant issue in the richer nations. 

It says blaming a young girl for getting pregnant is counter-productive.  Instead of changing the girl’s behavior, the report says, society should change its attitudes and actions.

Among the recommendations for reducing adolescent pregnancy with its related risks, the report suggests keeping girls in school, stopping child marriage, and providing adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive health, including contraception.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs