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Two million girls under 14 give birth worldwide every year

Every day in the developing world, an adolescent pregnancy kills a girl, a new UN report has found.

The cover of the UNFPA report
The cover of the UNFPA report
Image: UNFPA

A NEW REPORT from a United Nations agency has found that 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth every year, with 2 million under the age of 14.

The State of World Population 2013 report, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, found that 95 per cent of those births are in developing countries.

Girls 14 or younger 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”.

Girls who become pregnant before age 15 in low- and middle-income countries have double the risk for maternal death and obstetric fistula than older women, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

In developed countries, there are 680,000 births to adolescent mothers every year. Nearly half of these occur in the US.

Adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 account for as many as 3.2 million unsafe abortions annually in developing countries, the report says.

Early pregnancy results in 200 deaths in developing countries every day, the report added.

The report calls for a shift away from interventions targeted at girls towards broad-based approaches that “build girls’ human capital, helps 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”.

“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.

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

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