Tag Archives: United Nations Population Fund

New Report Highlights Motherhood in Childhood

When I traveled throughout Tanzania and Zambia recently I noticed young mothers at every turn. With sleeping babies closely wrapped on their backs I often thought how fortunate these girls were to have survived a pregnancy and delivery at such a young age and then my thoughts would wander off thinking how many children might they already have at such a young age and how many more children would they have in the future. Tanzania and Zambia are two of the top twenty countries with high teenage pregnancy rates according to a brand-new State of the World’s Population report that was released today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Every day 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth in developing countries according to the new report: Motherhood in Childhood. 7.3 million births a year are delivered by adolescents, 2 million of which are delivered by girls under the age of 14.

A 13-year-old fistula patient at a VVF centre in Nigeria. © UNFPA/Akintunde Akinleye
A 13-year-old fistula patient at a VVF centre in Nigeria.
© UNFPA/Akintunde Akinleye

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said UNFPA Executive Director 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.”

When adolescents become pregnant they often cease their studies and cut their education short which adversely affects their lifetime earning potential. They also may face terrible health complications from their delivery and may even die from these complications causing a ripple effect in her family’s dynamic and the health of the baby. 200 young girls die every day from delivery complications.

Improving Adolescent Pregnancy Rates

Schooling is the strongest catalyst that will decrease adolescent pregnancy rates in the developing world. Developing countries account for 95% of the world’s teenage pregnancies. This is to due to traditional norms in which girls are expected to marry and procreate early, sexual abuse, peer pressure, and pressure from older men who court younger girls for sex in low resource and impoverished areas. Girls who experience sexual relations are, of course, susceptible to an increased chance of getting STIs and HIV/AIDS in addition to becoming pregnant. Contraceptives and family planning education and services may be unavailable to them or shunned.

“We must reflect on and urge changes to the policies and norms of families, communities and governments that often leave a girl with no other choice, but a path to early pregnancy,” said Mr. Osotimehin. “This is what we are doing at UNFPA and what we will continue to do and recommend until every girl is able to choose the direction of her life, own her future and achieve her greatest potential.”

Read the report: Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy

Top photo copyright: Jennifer James

World Population Day Highlights Adolescent Pregnancy

Today is World Population Day and this year’s theme is adolescent pregnancy. We are going to concentrate our efforts on addressing the needs of adolescent girls in developing countries as they make up over 500 million of the 600 million girls in the world according to the UNFPA. Nearly 16 million of them give birth between the ages of 15 -19 every year accounting for 11% of births worldwide.

Giving birth at such a young age is severely traumatic for girls because although their bodies can reproduce their bodies are too small to deliver a baby in most cases. This is one of the primary factors that leads to maternal and newborn mortality, increased obstetric fistulas and other childbirth complications.


Girls who marry young and who have little education are most at risk for adolescent pregnancies. They often do not have access to family planning education or it is forbidden by her husband. There are grave consequences when adolescent girls are not given the option to plan their pregnancies which leads to increased probability of death or injury during childbirth or the same from unsafe abortions. In 2008 there were an estimated 3.2 million unsafe abortions for girls between 15-19 according to UNFPA data.

Additionally young girls in developing countries who marry early are at higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from their much older husbands. Young women between the ages of 15 – 24 make up 64 percent of new HIV cases worldwide.

What can be done about adolescent pregnancy in low and middle income countries? Governments and NGOs need to come together to push for greater access to education for girls. Studies show the more education a girl has, the longer she prolongs marriage. Additionally, there needs to be a greater emphasis on child marriages and the detrimental effects it has on adolescent girls. And finally, girls need greater reproductive education and access to family planning services in order to adequately plan their pregnancies.

In many cultures a woman’s worth is wrapped in motherhood. The only problem comes when young girls become mothers too early.

Learn more about World Population Day at UNFPA.org. Follow the conversation at #WorldPopDay on Twitter.


Photo: United Nations

Family Planning Conversations During Women Deliver #WD2013

The second day of the Women Deliver conference was led by robust conversations and discussions about family planning. Wednesday’s events began with the plenary session: Global Progress on Family Planning—Putting Women at the Heart of the Global Health Agenda which was opened by Melinda Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Increased momentum has quickly developed worldwide for a global family planning effort to ensure more women have voluntary access to contraceptives since last year’s London Family Planning Summit.

The consensus throughout all of the family planning discussions (you can watch via Livestream) is that several important, systematic steps must first be achieved in order to ensure women and girls have access to adequate reproductive health including:

  • bringing on more financial commitments in order to fund family planning commodities and services to reach an additional 120 million women
  • ensuring that commitments are being honored
  • creating iron-tight distribution channels in order to make sure women in even the most remote areas have access to family planning services, contraceptives
  • engaging men and boys in the process in order to make sure that access to family planning does not become stalled in local areas or even on country or regional bases

During the Plenary Lunch: Developing Countries’ Strategies Towards Reaching the FP2020 Goals – Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health, Ethiopia, Matia Kasaija, Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Uganda and Dr. Mojisola Odeku, Director, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative had a robust discussion about their respective countries’ work toward increased access to contraceptives.


I have to agree with Dr. Admasu, Ethiopia’s Health Minister. On a recent trip to Ethiopia I saw adequate supplies and information about contraceptives and family planning at every health post I visited.

Family Planning - Ethiopia




  • If you want to know individual country’s family planning coverage and unmet need visit the World Health Organization’s recently released World Health Statistics 2013.
  • If you want to know all of the commitments from the London Summit on Family Planning visit Family Planning 2020.

Photo: UN Photo

Putting an End to Female Genital Mutilation

Today marks the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Each year February 6th is spent by leading NGOs and international aids organizations spreading awareness about the devastating cutting practice that puts three million girls in both east and west Africa as well as Arab countries at risk of undergoing FGM.

An estimated 101 million girls have undergone FGM in Africa and while there are many communities in Africa that continue the practices many are renouncing FGM. In fact 36% of girls between the ages of 15 – 19 in Africa (concentrated in 29 countries) are at risk of FGM as opposed to 53% of women between the ages of 45 – 49 who have already undergone FGM. The numbers are decreasing according to the UNFPA.

“Senegal is going way out front to tackle FGM,” said Lynne Featherstone, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development and Champion for the elimination of violence against women during a Google+ Hangout today. “It seems to me to be a good example of behavior change. We have an ambition to end FGM in a generation.”

“UNFPA and UNICEF have an institutional approach to ridding the world of FGM,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA. “Since 2008 that joint program has seen at least 10 thousand communities in these countries denounce FGM.

Osotimehin also said that 88,000 health providers have been trained so that they can work in health centers and educate traditional communities about the dangers of FGM.

Despite the increased awareness and lowering of FGM rates Osotimehin said, “I think there is a lot more to do. We need to invest more domestically and internationally. We need to work more with governments on the ground. We need to stigmatize FGM. We can achieve it. If we don’t there are 30 million girls who are still at risk for FGM.”

Learn more about female genital mutilation and how you can help at www.endfistula.org.

Photo Credit: United Nations