Adolescent pregnancy has been identified as one of the reasons why young females don’t realise their full potential and experts have called for actions to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health education on this year’s world population day.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in his message for the World Population Day 2013, expressed the need to devote attention and resources to the education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls for sustainable positive change in society. "On this World Population Day, let us pledge to support adolescent girls to realize their potential and contribute to our shared future," he said.
Globally, about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year and 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. In Nigeria, young people contribute more than 60 per cent of unsafe abortions annually, according to a study by Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP) in 2006.
A statement by the Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. BabatundeOsotimehin, on this year’s World Population Day reveals that complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 in developing countries.
These complications may cause obstetric fistula, illness, injury and death.
Several social, cultural and economic factors are responsible for adolescent pregnancy, one of such is early marriage, the 2005 National HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Survey reveals that 73 per cent of girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years are married in the North-eastern States of Nigeria.
The number of married adolescents in North West and North East Nigeria make up about 42 per cent of the total number of Nigerian married adolescents aged 15 – 19, contributing an estimated 71 per cent of the annual births by Nigerians in the 15 – 19 age group.
UNFPA Executive Director’s statement further states that "adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights".
Programme Director, Development Communications (DevComs) Network, Mr. Akin Jimoh in his message on this year’s World Population Day said young girls are vulnerable to sexual violence when they are ignorant of their rights. According to him, there is a need to empower young girls with adequate information about their health and well-being.
To address the challenges posed by adolescent pregnancy, the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) in a statement on the World Population Day 2013 recommend access to sexual and reproductive health information, provision of youth – friendly health services, and participation of young people in all decision making processes and programming.
As the world marks, this year’s world population day, theme: adolescent pregnancy, it is important to understand that adolescent pregnancy does not only add to the rate of maternal mortality, it can result in school drop-out, increased incidents of STI infections, and jeopardy of ambitions and potentials of girls.