July 11 was World Population Day, and the United Nations Population Fund used the day to focus on the problem of teen pregnancy. The online periodical ContraPunto collected the statistics for El Salvador. In El Salvador,
- One of every 12 Salvadoran girls is a mother by the time she is 15.
- In the poorest areas of the country, that number rises to one in five.
- One of every three Salvadoran girls has had a baby by the time she is 18.
- 29% of all births in the country are to girls between the ages of 10 and 19.
- 304 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are heads of households.
- 4,674 households are headed by teenage girls between 15 and 19 years old.
Both the teenage mother and her child (or children) has a significant struggle to avoid a life mired in poverty.
The United Nations Population Fund expressed why it is so important to address adolescent pregnancy in El Salvador and worldwide:
Adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and 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. To bring these issues to global attention, this year’s World Population Day is focusing on adolescent pregnancy.
Breaking the cycle of adolescent pregnancy requires commitment from nations, communities and individuals in both developed and developing countries to invest in adolescent girls. Governments should enact and enforce national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18 and should promote community-based efforts that support girls’ rights and prevent child marriage and its consequences.
Adolescents and youth must be provided with age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to develop the knowledge and skills they need to protect their health throughout their lives. However, education and information are not enough. Good quality reproductive health services must also be readily available in order for adolescents to make informed choices and be healthy.