On July 11 the United Nations observes “World Population Day” with the focus this year on adolescent pregnancy.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that about 16 million girls under the age of 18 give birth each year and that another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.
For far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with an informed choice. Often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations, child marriage, inadequate education or sexual coercion. Therefore adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue; it’s a development issue deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality and power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that adolescent pregnancy is a sensitive topic that demands global attention. To address the problem girls must be empowered through improved health services and good education. “When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income”, Ban Ki-moon said in his message.
Birth rates among women with low education are higher than for those with secondary or tertiary education. Furthermore there is a lack of sexual education in many countries.
Adolescent pregnancy is a major contributor to maternal and child mortality, and to the vicious cycle of ill-health and poverty in the developing world. The Secretary General urges for more “attention and resources to education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls”, so they will become an even greater force for positive change in society and realize their full potential.
To find out more about adolescent pregnancy, stay tuned for UNFPA’s State of World Population report 2013 (release date 23 October 2013).
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