Teenage pregnancy, a big social problem in Nigeria, is on the rise as a result of increasing poverty in the land, sexual abuse and lack of sex education among youths
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Sep. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
AT 17, Felicia Iyere already wears the looks and bears the responsibilities of a full grown woman. In the morning when her mates are preparing to go to school or engage in some other worthwhile activities, she is busy tending to her five month-old baby. Although she still lives with her parents at Abesan estate in Lagos, Iyere who dropped out of school a little over a year ago, now fends for herself and baby by doing domestic work for other residents in the neighbourhood.
Modupe Adebayo is another teenage mother. She is 19 and has a two-year-old baby boy named Wasiu. Although she seemed to have moved on with her life, the burden of taking care of her son made her drop out of school in order to do menial jobs to feed herself and the baby. Like Iyere and Adebayo, there are many teenage mothers in various parts of the country, an indication that teenage pregnancy is on the rise. Medical experts have, on many instances, called the attention of the public to the dangers of teenage pregnancy, which they describe as a major health challenge facing all the countries of the world.
They cite a report of the World Health Organisation WHO, which indicates that more than 16 million girls, aged between 15 and 19 years, give birth to babies every year. Irked by this report, various stakeholders used the International Youth Day which held on August 12, this year to call for the adoption of proactive measures to check the growing menace of teenage pregnancy across the world.
The International Youth Day focuses on the rights of young people to have full access to education, adequate healthcare, employment opportunities, financial services and full participation in public life.
Festus Odimegwu, chairman, National Population Commission, NCP, said efforts are being made to curb the menace of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria via aggressive public enlightenment programmes. He also advised the government to address challenges such as poverty, sexual abuse and ignorance, while also imposing stiffer penalties on perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Odimegwu listed poverty and sexual abuse as some of the factors that promote teenage pregnancy. “Worldwide and within countries, adolescent births are likely to occur among the poor, less educated and rural populations. The increasing incidence of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria can be appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that about 44.5 million Nigerians are young people. “In 2015, this number is expected to increase to 60 million young people due to early marriages, early exposure to sex and pregnancy and poor health services,” he said.
Odimegwu said that teenage girls were at risk of having sexual and reproductive health problems, insisting that the teenage maternal mortality rate of 0.822 per 1,000 women in Nigeria was high. He said that the negative consequences of teenage pregnancy included unsafe abortions, pregnancy complications, poor antenatal care and childbirth complications induced by weak pelvic bones, among others.
Vitalis Anyadike, executive director of Africare Development, a non-governmental organisation, haswarned against pre-marital and teenage pregnancy, advising youngsters to abstain from pre-marital sex to avoid contracting HIV and other infections. “Teenagers have been misinformed by their peers and some members of the society on the risks of pre-marital sex, thereby allowing themselves to be abused sexually,’’ he said. Anyadike noted that several teenagers had lost their lives to abortion while others had contracted deadly sexually transmitted diseases. “If people are educated on total abstinence from pre-marital sex, over 90 per cent of the people will be free from teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections as well as allied problems.”
Sharing similar sentiments, Joshua Zaman, a gynaecologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said that teenagers were likely to have more life-threatening complications during pregnancy and child delivery than those in their 20s. He said that teenagers, who indulged in pre-marital sex, faced the risk of dropping out of school as a result of pregnancy. Zaman identified unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, as some of the major challenges facing young people who engaged in pre-marital sex.
He noted that poverty was also responsible for many of the teenage pregnancies, adding that pregnant teenagers usually face a lot of trauma, social abuse and health-related problems. “There is need for parents, school authorities and guardians to acquire relevant knowledge on teenage sexuality for them to be able to educate teenagers on sexual issues. “This will also aid efforts to prevent the circumstances associated with irresponsible sexual behaviour,’’ he said. Besides, Zaman advised parents to sensitise their children on the dangers of early sex, while making pragmatic efforts to dissuade them from engaging in pre-marital sexual relations.
In order to protect the youths, Charles Odedo, a member of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Population, said that child rights, particularly those relating to the girl child, must always be preserved and protected. “The legislature and the executive at the federal level have adopted and enacted the Child’s Rights Act; the National Assembly has been calling on the different states to follow suit. “Parents are also called upon to create more time for their children’s upbringing, rather than leaving them under the care of housemaids; they should not forget the fact that money is not everything.”