By FAVOUR NNABUGWU

As the world marks this year’s World Population Day, married adolescents between 15 and 19 years old account for 71 percent annual births in the country, according to United Nations.

United Nations’ Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, in his message on World Population Day 2013, expressed the need to devote attention and resources to the education, health and well being of adolescent girls for sustainable positive change in society.

Ban Ki-Moon said: “On this World Population Day, let us pledge to support adolescent girls to realize their potential and contribute to our shared future.

“With the 2013 world population day theme: ‘Adolescent Pregnancy’, it is important to understand that adolescent pregnancy does not only add to the rate of maternal mortality, it can result in school drop-out, increased incidents of STI infections, and jeopardy of ambitions and potentials of girls”.

He said about 16 million girls under age 18 gave birth each year and 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions, while more than 60 percent of young people in Nigeria partake in unsafe abortions yearly.

He added that: “Adolescent pregnancy has been identified as one of the reasons why young females don’t realise their full potential and experts have called for actions to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health education.”

Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, revealed that complications from pregnancy and child birth were the leading cause of death among girls, aged 15-19 years, in developing countries.

According to him, these complications may cause obstetric fistula, illness, injury and death.

He said: “Several social, cultural and economic factors are responsible for adolescent pregnancy, one of such is early marriage, the 2005 National HIV/AIDS and reproductive health survey reveals that 73 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years are married in the North-Eastern states of Nigeria”.

Osotimehin further stated that “adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights”.

Programme Director, Development Communications (DevComs) Network, Mr. Akin Jimoh, in his message, said young girls were vulnerable to sexual violence when ignorant of their rights.

According to him, there is need to empower young girls with adequate information about their health and well-being.

To address the challenges posed by adolescent pregnancy, Jimoh said Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, NURHI, recommended access to sexual and reproductive health information, provision of youth-friendly health services, and participation of young people in all decision making processes and programming.

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