More than 7 Million Girls in Poor Countries Give Birth Before 18 Each Year, 2 million of them are 14 or younger - Finds New UNFPA Report

Karachi (Staff Reporter) Motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries, where every year 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth, according to The State of World Population 2013, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Of these 7.3 million births, 2 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 places particular emphasis on girls 14 and younger who are at double the risk of maternal death and obstetric fistula.

In Pakistan the child bearing adolescent girls are victims of child marriages. One of the deep rooted causes of child marriage is linked with the customary practices, societal norms and traditions that put pressure on the parents to marry their girls early or sacrifice them on the name of family honor. Lack of education, absence of life skills programmes and having no say in the family left them with no choice but to marry at early age.

According to population projections by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, adolescent girls’ population is 20 million in 2013 and as per findings of the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey 2012-2013, the fertility rate among girls between 15-19 years is 44 per 1000 women. Of this, only about 7% have access to contraception. ‘It has been shown globally that keeping girls in schools helps delay child marriage and early pregnancies, rendering life skills programme creates better understanding about their physical, emotional and mental well being and awareness in accessing sexual reproductive health information and services uplift their status in the society.’ said Rabbi Royan, Country Representative, UNFPA Pakistan.

He called for a broad based approach that aimed at building girls’ human capital, that helped them make decisions about their lives, including their sexual and reproductive health, and that which offered them opportunities other than only motherhood.
In 2010, 2 million women were married/in union before age 18. If present trends continue, 2.4 million of the young girls will be married before the age of 18 by 2030. Urgent action is needed to take solutions to prevent early marriage and early pregnancy.

We must intervene in ways that help the most vulnerable, especially girls between 10 and 14, who need support that builds their agency and protects their rights.

‘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.

Mr. Saleem Raza, Secretary Population Welfare Department, Government of Sindh who shared his views on harnessing girls’ youth potential in the country, recommended integration and mainstreaming of girls’ needs into larger development programme and policies.

Ms. Nabila Malik from Family Planning of Association of Pakistan highlighted that a bill on age of girls for marriage has been presented to the Sindh Assembly and it is the responsibility of media to ensure the passage of bill into law.

30 Oct 2013