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World Bank warns of increased risks of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean

Published:Sunday | December 15, 2013 | 10:20 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec 15, CMC - The World Bank says poverty, poor education, inequality and an inadequate ability to make decisions and control their own life plans put girls in Latin America and the Caribbean at greater risk of teenage pregnancy and early motherhood.

In a new report, the Washington-based financial institution said these, in turn, were associated with lower educational, economic and job opportunities.

The “Teenage Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean: on Early Motherhood, Poverty and Economic Achievement” report points out that teenage pregnancy and early motherhood remain “significant challenges for the region, despite advances in the educational and health indicators for women during the last decade and the growing female participation in the labor market”.

The World Bank said the region has the third highest teenage fertility rate - 72 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age - below Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (108 and 73, respectively).

In fact, the bank said most of the countries in the region appear in the top-50 list of countries with the greatest teenage fertility rates in the world; eight of them - Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador and Panama - rank in the top 40.

“Poverty and lack of opportunity are directly associated to teenage pregnancy and early motherhood, which can become impediments to women wanting to take full advantage of development opportunities,” said Luis-Felipe López-Calva, World Bank Lead Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean and part of the team authoring the report.

“This represents a challenge for the region, even though teenage pregnancies have dropped around the world in the last 10 years, in Latin America and the Caribbean that drop has been slower than elsewhere,” he added.

While the annual reduction in the teenage pregnancy rate between 1997 and 2010 was 2.7 per cent in South Asia and 1.6 percent globally, the annual drop in Latin American and the Caribbean was just 1.25 percent, the World Bank said.

It said in the Latin American and the Caribbean, the four countries with the highest teenage pregnancy rates - Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Honduras - reported the same rates between 2000 and 2010.

The World Bank said the five regional countries with the greatest success in terms of reducing teenage pregnancy rates during this period were Colombia (-25 per cent), Haiti (-23 per cent), Costa Rica, El Salvador and Peru (-21 per cent).

The report analyzes the risk factors associated with teenage pregnancy and highlights that teenage pregnancy rates are directly linked to poverty conditions and factors associated with inequality.

According to the report, the results suggest that those teens with more education, living in urban areas and belonging to higher income families have a lower probability of getting pregnant.

The report said pregnant teens were more vulnerable and poorer than childless teens, in part because they belong to different at-risk groups.

“An important risk factor is the lack of agency, understood as the freedom and ability a woman has to effectively choose her goals and make free decisions regarding her life plans.

“A teenage woman is more likely to get pregnant due to lack of agency, by following existing norms due to peer pressure, or by lacking the negotiating power necessary to make her partner accept the use of contraceptives.

“Moreover, access to information and education is key factors in the use of contraceptive methods,” the report stated.

The report also analyzes the consequences of teenage pregnancy, pointing out that teen mothers are less likely to finish secondary education and that teen pregnancy reduces average schooling achievement, school assistance and working hours.

In addition, the report shows a greater risk of maternal mortality, fetus death, child mortality, and suicide when the mother is a teenager.


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