Motherhood in childhood, huge global problem – UN

Ghana breastfeedingThe 2013 state of world population of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries where 7.3 million girls under 18 years, give birth every year.

“Of these 7.3 million births, two million are to girls 14 or younger who suffer the gravest long-term health and social consequences, from pregnancy, including high rates of maternal death and obstetric fistula”, according to the Report, entitled, Motherhood in Childhood:: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy.

The Report, a copy of which was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday, placed particular emphasis on girls, 14 years and younger, who are at double risk of maternal death and obstetric fistula.

It said Motherhood in Childhood offered a new perspective on adolescent pregnancy, looking not only at the girls’ behaviour as a cause of early pregnancy but also at the actions of their families, communities and governments.

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “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. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”

According to the Report, early pregnancy takes a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights; it also prevents her from realizing her potential and adversely impacts the baby.

The Report said it is not just mothers and babies that suffer consequences, children having children also severely impact communities and nations’ economies.

While the Report concludes that adolescent pregnancy is a much bigger challenge in the developing world, in developed countries, it is still a significant issue.

“Despite the critical need to prevent adolescent pregnancy, Motherhood in Childhood finds that the global community directs less than two cents of every dollar spent on international development to adolescent girls.

“This is especially troubling, considering we have the largest adolescent population in human history.

“However, money is just one part of the solution. UNFPA is promoting a holistic approach to tackling the challenge of adolescent pregnancy, which does not dwell on changing the behaviour of the girl, but rather on changing the attitudes and actions of the society she lives in,” it stated.

According to the Report, girls must be kept in school, child marriage ought to be stopped, attitudes about gender roles and gender equality must change, adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health must be increased, while better support to adolescent mothers ought to be provided..

“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, “said Dr. Osotimehin. “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, her own future, and achieve her greatest potential.“ GNA

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