Upsurge in mortality rate of pregnant teenagers in Nigeria is daily becoming serious cause of concern and embarrassment to this country. Recent reports indicate that not less than 50,000 teenage girls die yearly in Nigeria as a result of early pregnancy.
Teenage pregnancy refers to pregnancy by any girl below the age of 20. A recent statement from the National Population Commission, NPC, painted the ominous danger posed by this development to our country. For instance, about 44.5 million of Nigeria’s population is made up of young people. Adolescent births are prevalent among the poor, less educated and rural populations. It is projected that in 2015, this number will shoot to about 60 million young people largely as a result of early marriages, early sexual exposure and pregnancy, coupled with poor healthcare services.
The hazards of teenage pregnancy are many. Beside the fact that the girls are not matured for it, such pregnancies are not planned for and so pose severe health and psychological challenges to the affected teenager. The World Health Organisation, WHO, stated that about 16 million girls between 15 and 19 years of age and two million girls under the age of 15 give birth annually.
High mortality rate among pregnant teenagers is another facet to maternal mortality in Nigeria as it was reported that the country alone has 10 percent of global maternal mortality. Ms. Lynne Featherstone, the United Kingdom’s International Development Minister, last year in Abuja, made a revelation of an independent finding.
According to her, ignorance and early marriage are among the factors responsible for maternal mortality in Nigeria. “Over 80 per cent of women in the North cannot read. A survey of 15-24 year-old women found out that majority think it is reasonable for husbands to beat their wives if they burn food, refuse sex or go out without his permission”, she said.
There are obvious institutional, cultural, religious and economic factors that must be tackled in order to contain this ugly development. For instance, what is the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, doing in order to mitigate this problem, especially in respect of the policy it created to assist pregnant women?
The roles of agencies such as the National Orientation Agency, NOA, media, religious and traditional institutions, as well as non-governmental organisations are crucial here too.
Government and relevant bodies should evolve a proactive public enlightenment strategy to discourage early marriage among girl children in the North. Women empowerment through education and entrepreneurial activities should equally be pivotal in this respect. We cannot, as a country, continue to lose thousands of our girl-children to carelessness and harmful cultural and religious practices.


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