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In Latin America and the Caribbean, 18% of Births are from Adolescent Mothers

The International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated today, advocates to end child marriage, which causes early and unintended pregnancies

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) joins the first celebration of the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, whose goals are to recognize the rights of the girl child and the unique problems that they face all over the world. The theme is Ending Child Marriage, which results in early and unplanned pregnancies, as well as risks that put the lives of girls at risk.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 18% of all births occur among adolescents aged 15-19 years.  Furthermore, estimates suggest that of the unsafe abortions occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean, 15% occur among adolescents in this same age group.Every year in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are 1.2 million unintended pregnancies among adolescents, 51% of which occur among those who are unmarried. According to studies, a third of adolescents who do not want to get pregnant in LAC do not use any form of contraceptive methods.

Studies have demonstrated that adolescent mothers younger than 15 years old are four times more vulnerable to maternal mortality, and at greater risk of complications including anemia, toxemia, high blood pressure, placenta previa, and premature birth of the baby.

Pregnant adolescents have a much higher risk of dying from maternal causes each year compared to women in their twenties and thirties. In fact, maternal causes continue to rank among the leading causes of death in many countries of the Region.

In 2008 and 2009, PAHO/WHO’s Member States approved the Regional Strategy for Improving Adolescent and Youth Health and the Plan of Action on Adolescent and Youth Health, which emphasizes the development and strengthening of the national health sectors, integrated response with particular attention to the most vulnerable adolescents and youth, and the prevailing disparities in health status, both within and among the countries of the region.

Likewise, the Member States approved during the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference in September the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Integrated Child Health, which seeks to improve health and reduce child mortality through integrated and multisectoral policies and plans based on rights and social determinants.

The International Day of the Girl Child was established in 2011 by the United Nations General  Assembly.

Global figures

  • 62 million girls in the world don’t go to school
  • 140 million suffer consequences of sexual mutilation
  • 10 million each year are obligated to enter into marriage before turning 12
  • 90% of adolescent mothers aged 15-19 years are married in developing countries
  • 18% of births in LAC are from adolescent mothers
  • 2.5 million unsafe abortions occur every year among adolescents 15-19 years old in developing countries
  • 15% of unsafe abortions in the LAC region occur among adolescents 15-19 years



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