Every year, 2 million girls under age 15 give birth

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In a startling revelation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and two million girls under the age of 15 give birth every year.

Worldwide, one in five girls has given birth by the age of 18. In the poorest regions of the world, this figure rises to over one in three girls, the International health agency has said.

“Almost all adolescent births, about 95 per cent, occur in low and middle-income countries. Within countries, adolescent births are more likely to occur among poor, less educated and rural populations,” it said.

The report cites-lack of education on how to avoid becoming pregnant, lack of sex education as crucial reasons for the burden. “Some adolescents do not know how to avoid becoming pregnant, or are unable to obtain contraceptives. However, even where contraceptives are widely available, sexually active adolescents are less likely to use contraceptives than adults,” the report said.

According to the report in Latin America, Europe and Asia only 42-68 per cent of adolescents who are married or in partnerships use contraceptives. In Africa the rate ranges from 3-49 per cent.

The report found that lack of sexuality education in many countries is playing a key role in this menace.
A global coverage measure related to sexuality education estimates that only 36 per cent of young men and 24 per cent of young women aged 15-24 in low and middle-income countries have comprehensive and correct knowledge of how to prevent HIV.

Education, on the other hand, is a major protective factor for early pregnancy: the more years of schooling, the fewer early pregnancies. “Birth rates among women with low education are higher than for those with secondary or tertiary education,” it added.

The report disclosed that in low- and middle-income countries, over 30% of girls marry before they are 18 years of age; around 14% before the age of 15. “Moreover, married adolescents are likely to become pregnant and give birth in accordance with social norms."

Consequently, pregnant adolescents are more likely than adults to have unsafe abortions. An estimated three million unsafe abortions occur globally every year among girls aged 15-19 years. Unsafe abortions contribute substantially to lasting health problems and maternal deaths.

The report on Early marriages, adolescent and young pregnancies for the Sixty-fifth to be presented in the World Health Assembly in May refers to the guidelines published by the WHO on how to prevent early pregnancies and poor reproductive outcomes among adolescents in low and middle income countries.

The WHO has recommended to reducing marriage before the age of 18, creating understanding and support to reduce pregnancy before the age of 20, increasing the use of contraception by adolescents at risk of unintended pregnancy etc.

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