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UN: 1 in 5 mothers younger than 18 in some world regions

An estimated 20,000 births occur to under-18 mothers each day in some countries, the UN Population Fund has reported. About 70,000 girls as young as 10 die each year from complications during pregnancy.

Published Wednesday, the annual report of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 7.3 million girls younger than 18 give birth in certain regions each year, with most of these births occurring in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Two million of the young mothers are 14 years old or younger.

The authors of "Motherhood in Childhood" deduced the 7.3 million annual teenage pregnancies by examining 2010 statistics and survey results.

These suggested that 19 percent of young women in some countries had their first live birth before they turned 18.

The report concludes that 70,000 girls aged from 10 to 19 died each year from complications during pregnancy. That means almost 200 girls die each day during pregnancy and childbirth.

Child motherhood highest in Niger

The report found that among girls 15 years or younger, 2.9 million of them bore children in south Asia, and in sub-Saharan African 1.8 million had their first child when they were younger than 18.

The highest proportion of child mothers was in Niger (51 percent), followed by Chad (48 percent), the UNFPA reported.

Child mothers are exposed to much greater risks of maternal death or obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition resulting from obstructed and prolonged labour.

In most such cases the baby dies and, without surgery, the mother is left incontinent.

Adolescent pregnancies in wealthier countries represented just 5 percent, or about 680,000, of which nearly half occurred annually in the United States.

'Huge' global problem

UNFPA executive director Balatunde Osotimehin said that "too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant."

Instead, girls faced an "absence of choices" and circumstances beyond their control, Osotimehin said. The girls also often face societal pressure to quit school early if they become pregnant.

Sexual violence and widespread child marriage were key factors. In the countries highlighted in the report, nine out of 10 adolescent births occurred in a formal union.

The UNFPA said greater efforts should be made to keep girls in school, teach them about sexual health and change attitudes to gender roles.

ipj/mz (epd, dpa, AFP)

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