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Teenage pregnancy affecting health, social, economic, political and progress

-Status of youth report revealed  

October 1, 2018

Sierra Leone’s 2014 and 2015 status of youth report has revealed that teenage pregnancy is one of the most pervasive problems affecting the health, social, economic, political progress and empowerment of adolescent girls and young females in Sierra Leone.

According to the report, the situation was so because of its association with high risks of morbidity and mortality for both the mother and child.

The 2014 and 2015 Status of Youth Report in Sierra Leone was launched in Freetown on Friday, 21st September, 2018 by the Minister of Youth Affairs, Mohamed Orman Bangura.

According to the report, sexual activity and early childbearing in life pose significant risks to young people all over the world.

The report continued that review of statistics done by the study reveals that Sierra Leone was not exception to the above, and it showed that 28 percent of all pregnancies occurred amongst teenage girls and 40 percent of maternal deaths occurred as a result of teenage pregnancy.

“Early sex activity and the exposure of young girls to more sexually experienced men increase the vulnerability of those girls to HIV and AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases.Currently about 65 percent of young people are sexually active with girls in the rural areas and it has been showed by studies that the poorest girls in the poorest communities in the country are more prone to become pregnant at adolescent age with serious long term consequences for their health and overall development than their urban counterparts,” the report states.

The report observed that early pregnancies were associated with premature delivery, stillbirth, foetal distress as a result of the high incidence of obstetric fistula, birth asphyxia, low birth weight and miscarriage.

“Babies born to teen mothers are far more likely to die than those born to older women and it is therefore not surprising that 34 percent of all pregnancies occur amongst teen girls while 40 percent of maternal deaths are related to teenage pregnancy.”

According to the report, a focus group discussions which was one of the methodologies used by the reseachers,revealed that teenage pregnancy was on the increase in Sierra Leone and that poverty has been identified as the major cause ,coupled with low use of contraceptives, frequent unprotected sex and illiteracy.

“The level of illiteracy in particular among young girls in the country is very high and account for 66 percent and 50 percent of women and men respectively. The high levels of teenage pregnancy and early marriage hamper attendance in schools, retention and eventual completion by girls and it was therefore not really surprising that more than 70 percent of teenage mothers are illiterate, making education to have an inverse relationship with adolescent fertility.”

It noted that the visible ramification was that such pregnancies eventually reduced the educational and employment opportunities for women in the country and naturally increased stress as most of the children were born into homes that were not ready for them.

The report also revealed that between 2008 and 2013, 47 percent of girls at age 18 already had children or married, 16 percent married before the age 15, 48 percent married before 18 years, and 64 percent by age 20.

At regional level, according to the report, the proportion of teenagers who have started childbearing was highest in the southern region at 33 percent, followed by eastern region at 30 percent, northern region at 29 percent and Western Area almost 18 percent, and that 68 percent of young girls have their first pregnancy between the ages of 12 and 20.