United Nations, New York, 11 July 2013 – The World Population Day is celebrated today to raise awareness of the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

About 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year globally. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. The vast majority – 90 per cent -- of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice. Often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion.

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.

“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”, UNFPA Executive Director, Mr. Babatunde Osotimehin, stated and continued:

“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. At the local level, communities should provide the infrastructure to deliver reproductive health care in a youth-friendly and sensitive way.”

The World Population Day has been celebrated with the lead of the United Nations since 1989 to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the context of overall global development plans and programmes. As the world population edged to 7 billion people in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), it became clear that the world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity for the global development having profound implications on issues such as sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment.

As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his message for the World Population Day 2013:

“As a staunch advocate of the education, health and rights of girls and an enduring believer in the power of young women to transform our world, I welcome the focus of this year’s World Population Day on adolescent pregnancy. This sensitive topic demands global attention.

Far too many of the estimated 16 million teenage girls who give birth each year never had the opportunity to plan their pregnancy. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth can cause grave disabilities, such as obstetric fistula, and are the leading cause of death for these vulnerable young women.  Adolescent girls also face high levels of illness, injury and death due to unsafe abortion.

To address these problems, we must get girls into primary school and enable them to receive a good education through their adolescence. When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income.

We must also provide all adolescents with age-appropriate, comprehensive education on sexuality. This is especially important to empowering young women to decide when and if they wish to become mothers. In addition, we must provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services that cover family planning and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. And we must guarantee the maternal health services that women need.

When we devote attention and resources to the education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls, they will become an even greater force for positive change in society that will have an impact for generations to come. On this World Population Day, let us pledge to support adolescent girls to realize their potential and contribute to our shared future.”

More information from  http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/14426 and  http://www.un.org/en/events/populationday/index.shtml