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Teen Pregnancy Leading Cause Of Death

Pregnancy And Childbirth The Leading Cause Of Death For Teen Girls In The Developing World

More than one million infants - and an estimated 70,000 adolescent mothers - die each year in the developing world because young girls are having children before they are physically ready, according to a Save the Children1 report released today.

The State of the World’s Mothers report identifies the 50 countries where early motherhood is most common and its impact most devastating on both young mothers and their babies. Save the Children has issued the report during the build up to Mother’s Day as a stark reminder for developed nations of the tragic consequences of millions of children having children.

Nine of the ten highest-risk countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Niger, Liberia and Mali top the list. Other countries with high-risk scores outside of Africa include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua and Yemen.

The report found that in the ten highest risk countries, more than 1 in 6 teenage girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year and nearly 1 in 7 babies born to these teenagers die before age 1. One mother recalls getting married at 7, having sex at 9 and becoming a widow at 12.

In light of these findings, Save the Children is calling on the New Zealand Government to support increased funding for global basic education, child survival, maternal health and family planning programmes in developing countries and to expand support for sex education in New Zealand.

Save the Children New Zealand’s Executive Director John Bowis said education is the key to giving girls more options that can help delay early marriage and motherhood.

“There are an estimated 115 million school-aged children worldwide who are not in school, and 60 percent of them are girls,” he said. “Girls who are educated tend to marry later, have fewer children, and raise healthier children. They also tend to use contraception to delay first births or to plan births at healthy intervals.”

“New Zealand is not immune to the problem. We have the third highest rate of teenage births in 28 OECD (developed) countries – 27 in every 1000 births, almost twice that of Australia, 3 times that of France or Belgium, and 9 times the adolescent birth rate of the Republic of Korea.” 2

Among the report’s other major findings: Each year 1 in every 10 births worldwide is to a mother who is still a child herself. Girls in their teens in poor countries are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth related causes compared with older women. Girls 14 and under face even greater risks. Children born to children are more likely to be delivered prematurely and at low birth weight and are more likely to die in the first month of life. Young mothers face enormous health risks - obstructed labour is common and results in newborn deaths and death or disabilities for the mother.

The full report, which includes a Mother’s Index ranking the well-being of mothers and children in 119 countries, has been posted at http://www.savethechildren.org. This is the fifth consecutive year Save the Children has researched and documented conditions for mothers and their children in this format.

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