Geneva – The 20,000 girls below the age of 18 who give birth every day in developing countries make them and the countries they live in to face economic disadvantages, a UN report said on Wednesday.
The report said that it made them face much higher health risks than older mothers.
Every year, 7.3 million children become mothers in developing countries, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said in its annual report that was launched in several cities, including Geneva.
Some 70,000 mothers between 15 and 19 die from complications after birth each year.
Having children at a young age prevents girls from entering the work force.
If girls waited until the age of 20 before having babies, the gross annual income would be boosted by more than 7.7 billion dollars in India and 3.5 billion dollars in Brazil, the report found.
At the same time UNFPA chief Babatunde Osotimehin stressed that poverty was an important cause of childhood pregnancies, along with discrimination against women.
“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,’’ he said.
“The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”
The report said Niger had the world’s highest childhood pregnancy rate, with 51 per cent of women in their 20s reporting that they gave birth before turning 18.
In Asia, Bangladesh has the highest rate at 40 per cent.
In other regions, Nicaragua holds the record in Latin America at 28 per cent and Yemen in the Middle East at 25 per cent.
The U.S. accounts for half of the annual 680,000 teenage pregnancies in industrialised countries, the UNFPA said.