Tag Archives: UNFPA

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

[Photos] Walking Through a Medical Supplies Warehouse in Zambia

In Zambia there is one central location where over 600 medicines are stored for distribution throughout the country. I was recently in Zambia as a guest of Malaria No More and its new campaign, Power of One that ensures that with a small $1 donation a Zambian child will receive a full course of malaria treatment and a diagnostic test. While in Zambia I visited the Central Medical Store located in Lusaka where I saw Coartem, the life-saving medicine that prevents children from dying from malaria.

While there, I couldn’t help looking around at many of the medicines stacked to the rafters in the warehouse and also noticed the donors that provided various medicines and even equipment like the Global Fund, for example, that provides Lamivudine that treats Hepatitis B. The UNFPA provides male latex condoms to Zambia and also donated forklifts to the warehouse as well as USAID that provides family planning commodities for Zambian women. These are just a few examples of some of the medicines I saw. Additionally, USAID provided trucks that transports the medicines throughout the country. These are just a few of the observations I made.

In Zambia the Ministry of Health along with many of its NGO partners are looking at new and innovative ways to distribute medicines more efficiently throughout the country. In many remote areas like Zambia’s northwestern and northern provinces it becomes increasingly difficult to transport medicines, especially when the rainy season begins. Getting life-saving medicines and medical supplies becomes critical for the health and wellness of entire communities.

Now, the Central Medical Store is rolling out temporary hubs where medicines and medical supplies can be housed in each province instead of solely stored in Lusaka. The first of these hubs has been opened in Choma, a nearby major city center south of Lusaka. In Zambia, each of its 650 health posts must have one to two months of medical supplies on hand whereas hospitals must have a three month supply of medicines. In addition to introducing hub warehouses throughout the country the medical distribution supply chain is becoming more cloud-based which will ensure health posts and hospitals are able to order medicines and supplies from their mobile phones.

It was fascinating to see the Central Medical Store in Lusaka. It’s a huge operation that receives five containers of medicines a day and is effectively the most important component of the entire country’s medical supply chain.

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Thorough Reads Leading Up to the Family Planning Summit

Next week the UK government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UNFPA and their partners will host the the London Summit on Family Planning.  As Melinda Gates mentioned in April she is personally committed to putting family planning on the global agenda. This summit will bring together strategic partners, donors, NGOs, civil society and developing countries to pledge to also put family planning on the global agenda and devise a plan to provide contraceptives to an additional 120 million women around the world by the year 2020.

Leading up to the summit there have been several thorough articles that explain why family planning is important to saving women and children and contributing to an overall better life for women who have choices over when they want to have children.

What’s Sex Got to Do With It: An inconvenient truth is hiding behind the current excitement about educating girls

Imagine a World Where Every Woman is Equal

London Family Planning: Not Business As Usual

Family Planning: Reaching for the Summit

Be sure to follow the #FPSummit hashtag to follow the discussion.

Photo UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

New Study Says Maternal Deaths Have Been Halved, Progress Still Necessary

Maternity Ward – Siaya District Hospital – Kisumu, Kenya

A new study released this week from the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Bank reported that maternal deaths have been halved since 1990, but 800 mothers still die during childbirth or resulting from complications during childbirth each day. Four years ago a mother died from childbirth every four minutes, now women die of childbirth every two minutes.

There are key facts that can be found on the UNFPA web site including:

• In 2010, the global maternal mortality ratio was 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest maternal mortality ratio at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

• In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman faces a 1 in 39 lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. In South-eastern Asia the risk is 1 in 290 and in developed countries, it is 1 in 3,800.

• Ten countries have 60 per cent of the global maternal deaths: India (56,000), Nigeria (40,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (15,000), Pakistan (12,000), Sudan (10,000), Indonesia (9,600), Ethiopia (9,000), United Republic of Tanzania (8,500), Bangladesh (7,200) and Afghanistan (6,400).

• Ten countries have already reached the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal death: Belarus, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Maldives, Nepal, Romania and Viet Nam.