Adolescent pregnancy is not only a health issue; it is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Economic Planning and Budget, Mrs. Iyabowale Aluko, made this known in her keynote address during the celebration of World Population Day in Lagos. She stated that this year’s theme “Adolescent pregnancy” aptly describes the need to comprehensively undertake steps that would ensure overall development of the girl-child. Aluko said the State Government was doing everything possible to protect the rights of the girl- child and will not leave any stone unturned until the set target was met.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Bayo Sodade, earlier in his welcome address, revealed that statistics showed that millions of adolescent girls face deep discrimination and exclusion that prevent them from claiming their rights and living out their true potentials.
Shodade recalled that, as an event observed every July 11, the World Population Day celebration was designed to increase peoples’ awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
The guest speaker, Dr. Omolaso Omosehin, Head, Lagos Office, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) who presented a paper on “Adolescent pregnancy: Problems and Prospect” said adolescent girls and young women face high levels of morbidity and death as a result of unsafe abortion. According to him statistics revealed that in 2008, there were estimated three million unsafe abortions in developing countries among girls aged 15-19.
Reiterating the fact that, early marriages contribute largely to high morbidity and death rate among adolescent girls aged 15-19 in low and middle income countries; Dr. Omolaso Omosehin revealed that about 16 million girls aged between 15-19 give birth each year and that 9 out of every 10 girls involved were already married. He opined that still births and deaths are 50 percent more likely in babies born to mothers younger than 20 as against babies born to mother aged 20-29.
He emphasized the need to invest in adolescent girls to enable them to have the opportunity to reach their full potentials and claim their rights. By so doing, they are also more likely to marry later, delay child bearing, have healthier children by having access to the basic obstetric care that will save their lives and ensure their infants’ survival, he enthused.
In his paper, “Population and Environment: Lagos State Perspective” Dr. John Lekan Oyefara of the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos emphasized that Lagos State is the most populous State in Nigeria and one of the most populated in Africa, a fact that makes her a megacity. The State infrastructure, he noted therefore was under a lot of pressure posed by population size, structure, composition and growth rate of the State.
He opined that the population of a country could be an asset or a liability depending on its impact on the lives of the people and the resources available to the state or country for developmental programmes. Dr. Oyefara noted that if the rate of population growth is unchecked, there could be a corresponding negative implication of infrastructure, sanitation, population per unit of land area, availability of land for agriculture and industrial purposes, the patterns of settlement and dispersal of people in the state.
Mrs. Roli Bode-Gorge, Commissioner, National Population Commission, in her address at the event, enjoined government at all levels to educate the people at the grassroots on the consequences of early marriage, early pregnancy, HIV and family planning.
She advised parents to register births at NPC centres even after registering with Lagos State centres, as the State work hand in hand with the Commission for the purpose of documentation and accurate data collection.