An estimated 20,000 births occur to under-18 mothers each day in developing countries, says the UN Population Fund. An estimated 70,000 girls as young as 10 die each year from complications.
The annual report of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) published Wednesday said 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth in poor, developing countries each year, with most of these births occurring in South Asia and sub-Saharan African. Two million of the young mothers are 14 years old or younger.
The authors of "Motherhood in Childhood" deduced the 7.3 million annual teenage pregnancies by examining 2010 statistics and survey results.
These suggested that 19 percent of young women in developing countries had their first live birth before they turned 18.
The report concludes that 70,000 girls aged from 10 to 19 died each year from complications during pregnancy. That means almost 200 girls die each day during pregnancy and childbirth.
Child motherhood highest in Niger
Among girls 15 years or younger, 2.9 million of them bore children in south Asia; in sub-Saharan African 1.8 million had their first child under 15, the report concludes.
The highest proportion of child mothers was in Niger (51 percent), followed by Chad (48 percent), said the UNFPA.
Child mothers are exposed to much greater risks of maternal death or obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition resulting from obstructed and prolonged labour.
In most such cases the baby dies and, without surgery, the mother is left incontinent.
Adolescent pregnancies in the richer, developed world represented just five percent, or about 680,000, of which nearly half occurred annually in the United States.
'Huge' global problem
UNFPA executive director Balatunde Osotimehin said "too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant."
Instead, girls faced an "absence of choices" and circumstances beyond their control, Osotimehin said. The girls also often face societal pressure to quit school early if they become pregnant.
Sexual violence and widespread child marriage were key factors. In the countries highlighted in the report, nine out of 10 adolescent births occurred in a formal union.
The UNFPA said greater efforts should be made to keep girls in school, teach them about sexual health and change attitudes to gender roles.
ipj/mz epd, dpa, AFP