How poverty, lack of sex education force young Nigerian girls into early motherhood.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics 2016/2017, By the time many Nigerian girls are between 15 and 19 years old, 19.2 percent of them would have become mothers
Medical Experts are worried about the emotional and physical hazards of teen motherhood, considering that the mother herself is still a baby
Teen pregnancy, sometimes, could be attributed to curiosity, peer pressure, rape, poverty and sexual abuse.
The World Health Organization says approximately 12 million girls aged 15 to 19 get pregnant and 777,000 under 15 years give birth each year in developing countries.
According to WHO teen pregnancy occurs in young girls between the ages of 10 and 19.
It also notes that out of 5.6 million abortions that occur every year among teenage girls of age 15 and 19, 3.9 million are unsafe, contributing to maternal mortality.
In Nigeria, available data collected from the Statistical Information Officer at the National Bureau of Statistics, Leo Sanni, for 2016/2017, reveals that 19.2 percent of teens aged 15 to 19 years had started having children, with 3.1 percent having given birth before they clocked 15 years.
Adolescent birth rate in Nigeria’s database as updated in May 2021 indicates a yearly average of 106 teen childbirths per 1,000 population, compared with Zimbabwe which records 180 childbirths per 1,000 population.
Fifteen-year-old Favor Ananiah explained how she dropped out of school at an early age to have a baby.
“I Took in when I just finished with my junior School, when I told my parents they were mad at me and beat me mercilessly, no food to eat, I was maltreated and made to work from morning till evening, no money to register for anti natal and even the guy who got me pregnant rejected the Pregnancy, I dropped out of school”
Two other school dropouts, Joy James, 16; and Loveth Julius, 17, said that poverty was a major factor that lured them into early sex, resulting in pregnancy.
” I started following boys so that I can have little cash to feed, my parents are poor farmers and old, when I discovered I was pregnant my parents threw me out of the house, I moved in with the boy who impregnated me, during delivery it was difficult and had to go through Ceaserian section”
“I when I took in I told the guy, who immediately disappeared and couldn’t be reached, we contacted him on phone and he threatened to harm me if I call him again”
Pregnant teens Tina Garuba and Rahina Daniel, 15 and 14 years respectively, who were impregnated by teenage boys, attributed it to ignorance and poor awareness about sex education.
” The guy who got me pregnant rejected it and my Mum resulted to beating me each day as she was not having any means of livelihood to sustain the family, and my dad died immediately I finished my junior WAEC”
“Live was miserable for me as a pregnant teen, I got pregnant because my boyfriend who gives me money sleeps with me and with the Pregnancy I still have toilet infection as it itches me in my private part”
No matter the circumstances, health experts say that the risks associated with teen childbirths are enormous, especially for girls under the age of 15 whose pelvics may not be fully developed.
An Assistant Director Nursing and Maternal Child Health Coordinator at the Kuje Area Council, Mrs. Iyabo Balogun, said early teen pregnancy causes anaemia and Vesico Vagina Fistula, VVF.
“Most of the time this teenagers are ignorant of what to do to abstain from unwanted Pregnancy, they don’t one for anti natal care and no sex Education. This most times subjected them to unsafe sex and infections, anaemia as well as complication during delivery”
The Program and Gender Officer, Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health at the Women Friendly Initiative, WFI, Ms Rosemary Adaji, narrated how the organization intervened in the case of a teen mother whose baby had imperforated anus from birth, calling for speedy implementation of policies on reproductive health to address the challenges.
” The girl was 16 years when she got to us with the Pregnancy, also she was an orphan, we took her in, cared for her till she delivered but found out that her baby had no opening in her anus to pass feaces, my Organization sponsored a surgical operation for the child, it was successful, both baby and mother was fine and we ensured she returns to school”
The Assistant Director, Child Development Department, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Mariam Shaibu, said there were ongoing efforts by the ministry to enrol teen mothers in school so that they can complete their education up to secondary school level; as well as embark on campaigns to end early child marriage in line with the 2003 Child Rights Act.
Although there had been sensitization programs, experts believe formulation of laws to end child marriage and enforcement of the law that makes education compulsory to a certain level would nib in the bud the ugly trend.
This the experts say would also ensure success towards reducing teenage pregnancy in Nigeria.
This story is supported by the Media and Gender Project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism