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Young mothers

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Girls under 15 account for 2 million of the annual total of 7.3 million new adolescent mothers, according to a new report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The State of World Population 2013, published by UNFPA on Wednesday, says that if current trends continue, the number of births to girls under 15 could rise to 3 million a year in 2030.

Every day, 20,000 girls below the age of 18 give birth in developing countries. Nine in ten of these births occur within marriage or a union.

The report highlights the main challenges of adolescent pregnancy and its serious impacts on girls’ education, health and long-term employment opportunities. It also shows what can be done to curb this trend and protect girls’ human rights and well-being.

“In every region of the world,impoverished, poorly educated and rural girls are more likely to become pregnant than their wealthier, more urban, and more educated counterparts. Girls from ethnic minorities or marginalised groups, and those who have limited or no access to sexual and reproductive health, are also at greater risk,” the UNFPA report says.

Pregnancy has major consequences on a girl’s health, says the report, since health problems are more likely if she becomes pregnant too soon after reaching puberty.

About 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die annually of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Adolescents who become pregnant tend to be from lower-income households and to be nutritionally depleted.

The report shows that girls who remain in school longer are less likely to become pregnant. Education prepares girls for future jobs and livelihoods, raises their self-esteem and their status, and gives them more say in decisions affecting their lives.

“Education also reduces the likelihood of child marriage and delays childbearing, eventually leading to healthier birth outcomes,” the report reads.

The State of World Population 2013 also calls for a shift away from interventions targeted at girls towards broad-based approaches that build girls’ human capital, help them make decisions about their lives, including matters of sexual and reproductive health, and offer them real opportunities so that motherhood is not seen as their only destiny.

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