Motherhood In Childhood To Double In Sub-Saharan Africa

Motherhood In Childhood To Double In Sub-Saharan Africa

West and Central Africa have the world’s highest proportion of births for mothers under age 15, and in sub-Saharan Africa, child motherhood will likely double by 2030, the U.N. reports, according to AllAfrica.

In countries where child marriage is common – such as Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique and Niger – one in 10 girls has a child before the age of 15.

In West and Central Africa, the world’s largest proportion of young women – 28 percent – say they became mothers before age 18. In East and Southern Africa the figure is 25 percent, while in South Asia it is 22 percent. These numbers came out in the latest annual report by the U.N. Population Fund, “Motherhood in Childhood.”

Adolescent pregnancies are also increasing in the African countries where they occur most. There are 15 countries in the world, the report says, where 30 percent or more of mothers are adolescents. In recent years, the rate of adolescent pregnancy dropped in eight of these countries but rose in six. All six are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Internationally, 95 percent of the world’s births to adolescents occur in developing countries. About 19 percent of young women in developing countries become pregnant before they are 18. Nine in 10 births happen within a marriage or a union.

One in nine girls in developing countries is forced into marriage before age 15, the report said. In Chad and Niger, more than one in three girls is married before her 15th birthday, while in Ethiopia the figure is one in six girls.

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Too often, society blames only the girls for becoming pregnant, said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, in a statement accompanying the report.

“The reality,” he said, “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.”

The fund said it advocated a holistic approach to tackling the problem, aimed at changing attitudes in society rather than the behavior of girls.

“This includes: Keeping girls in school; stopping child marriage; changing attitudes about gender roles and gender equality; increasing adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health, including contraception; and providing better support to adolescent mothers,” the report said.