Mrs Bawumia worried over teenage pregnancy rate

BY: Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
Mrs Samira Bawumia (2nd left) explaining the five-year strategic plan to Miss Deborah Ampah (2nd right), a student of the All Saints Anglican Model School, at the launch. Those with them are Ms Gifty Twum-Ampofo (left) and Dr Afisah Zakariah (right).
Mrs Samira Bawumia (2nd left) explaining the five-year strategic plan to Miss Deborah Ampah (2nd right), a student of the All Saints Anglican Model School, at the launch. Those with them are Ms Gifty Twum-Ampofo (left) and Dr Afisah Zakariah (right).

The wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Samira Bawumia, has expressed concern over the increasing rate of teenage pregnancy in the country and called on all stakeholders to work hard to address the issue.

Mrs Bawumia said it was unacceptable that children as young as 10 years were getting pregnant and dropping out of school, thereby missing out on economic opportunities, a situation which she said caused an increase in the vicious circle of poverty and illiteracy, among others.

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She was speaking at the launch of a five-year strategic plan to address adolescent pregnancy by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Accra yesterday.

The plan sets out the national goal, strategic objectives, interventions and a monitoring plan to aid the full integration of adolescent issues into the development process of the country.

It was drawn up in collaboration with development partners, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF and Plan International.

Its launch coincided with this year’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.


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The day, declared by the United Nations, largely focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote their empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

Adolescent pregnancy

Mrs Bawumia said adolescent pregnancy remained a major contributor to maternal and child mortality, pointing out that it was directly related to inter-generational cycles of ill-health and poverty, adding that it could also lead to devastating health consequences for many of the affected girls.

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“I am minded of the statistics that every day 20,000 girls, under the age of 18, give birth in the developing world,” she said, and noted that the number added up to 7.3 million births a year, making adolescent pregnancies very high.

“At the same time, every year, about three million girls aged 15 to 19 resort to unsafe abortions, risking their lives and health,” she said.

“According to the United Nations, this year alone, 21 million girls, aged 15 to 19 years, are likely to become pregnant in developing regions,” she added.

Mrs Bawumia said those girls, most often, were not physically ready for pregnancy or childbirth, and were, therefore, more vulnerable to complications.

Complications

Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said adolescent mothers aged 10 to 19 years faced higher risks of eclampsia, endometritis and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years.

“Furthermore, the emotional, psychological and social needs of pregnant adolescent girls can be greater than those older women. Early childbearing can increase risks for newborns, as well as young mothers. These babies, born to mothers under 20 years of age, face higher risks of low birthweight, pre-term delivery, and severe neonatal conditions,” she said.

She said early pregnancy and motherhood were also closely linked to issues of human rights and pointed out that a pregnant girl who was pressured or forced to drop out of school, for example, was denied her right to education, while the one who was prevented from accessing contraception or reproductive health information was also denied her right to health.

Mrs Bawumia said although the country had invested and committed some resources to adolescent reproductive health and rights, more needed to be done.

She said there was the need to help adolescent girls through the expansion of learning opportunities and by way of engaging policy makers, to rethink how to prevent abuse and exploitation of the adolescents so that they would be better equipped to transition into the country’s workforce.

Mrs Bawumia said the strategic plan on addressing adolescent pregnancy fed into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Three, which ensured healthy lives and the promotion of wellbeing for all, to help achieve Universal Health Coverage which was target eight of Goal Three of the SDGs and that she said emphasised the need for governments to ensure financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services including reproductive, maternal and child health services.

Statistics

The Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Gifty Twum-Ampofo, in an address, said as a country, “we need to be concerned about the alarming rate of reported cases of teenage pregnancy”.

Giving some statistics, she said pregnancy cases in basic and senior high schools in the Brong Ahafo Region increased from 430 in the 2015/2016 academic year to 778 in the 2016/2017 academic year.

Seventy-four pregnant students were unable to write their examination during the 2017/2018 academic year, while a total of 811 teenage pregnancies occurred between 2013 and 2018 in the same region.

Again, the Ghana Health Service report for 2015 indicated that more than 13,000 teenage girls got pregnant in the Central Region.

That, she said, made the development of the strategic plan very critical and a necessary tool to complement other policies and interventions currently on-going to position adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues within a broader context to ensure the demographic dividend and youth development we seek.

The Chief Director of the ministry, Dr Afisah Zakaria, in a welcome address, said education was one of the most important means of empowering girls with knowledge, skills and self-confidence that they need to participate fully in the development process.

Education, she said, empowered girls not only because it was an entry point to other opportunities but also because the educational achievements of girls and women in general could have rippling effects on the family and society at large.