About 70,000 girls and one million infants born to young mothers die worldwide every year due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, according to a report released Tuesday by Save the Children.
Many of these deaths could be avoided by policy and program changes that help girls to postpone marriage and childbirth and provide health and education services to them, said the charity’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report.
“For too many young girls, motherhood is a disabling tragedy or even worse a death sentence,” said Mary-Beth Powers, a senior reproductive health advisor at Save the Children.
High maternal mortality rates
Both mother and child were at a greater risk as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth and babies born to teens faced a risk of dying before age one that was 50 percent higher than those born to women in their 20s.
The report zeroed in on mothers aged 14 and under and said these were at greatest risk. For example, research from Bangladesh found mothers aged 10 to 14 faced five times the risk of maternal mortality compared to mothers aged 20 to 24.
Girls in sub-Saharan Africa had the highest rates of early marriage and motherhood and predictably the highest mortality rates among young mothers and their babies, said the report.
Countries outside of Africa where risks were particularly high for young mothers included Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in South Asia, Yemen in the Middle East and Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua in Latin America.
In the 10 highest risk countries, the report said on average nearly half of all girls aged 15 to 19 were married and more than one in six in this group would give birth in any given year.
Limited education plays key role
Limited education was both a cause and an effect of child motherhood and these young mothers often struggled economically and their children were likely to repeat the cycle of poverty.
In the industrialized world, the United States had the highest rate of early motherhood -- about two and half times that of the United Kingdom and over 17 times that of the Republic of Korea, said the report.
Among their recommendations to reduce the child motherhood rate, Save the Children said a focus on girls education and the tailoring of health services to young mothers would help.
Its annual Mothers Index, which looks at indicators measuring the well-being of mothers and their children, the report said Sweden, Denmark and Finland were at the top of the list while Niger ranked last among 119 countries surveyed.
The United States ranked 10th on the list, which looks at indicators such as maternal mortality, the use of modern contraception, female literacy and the well-being of children.