'Pregnancy-related complications highest killer of Zim teenagers'

HARARE - Pregnancy-related complications and childbirth are the biggest killers of teenagers in Zimbabwe and worldwide, a report has shown.

A report by Save the Children says that for girls and young women aged 15 to 19, pregnancy and childbirth are the cause of 50 000 teenage deaths yearly.

In Zimbabwe, 24 percent of girls between 15 and 29 have already begun child bearing.

Of these, 19 percent are mothers and an additional five percent are pregnant with their first child.

Manicaland and Mashonaland Central provinces have the highest number of young women who are currently mothers.

The provinces are at 27 percent and 30 percent respectively, according to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2011.

According to the survey, six percent of women are sexually active by 15.

Health experts say young motherhood is more common in rural areas than in urban areas.

Young women in the poorest households are nearly four times as likely to have started child bearing by the age of 19.

Ednah Masiyiwa, the director of Women Action Group, said the pregnancy-related deaths are due to HIV incidences in the country and lack of knowledge among the youth.

In Zimbabwe, fertility varies by residence and province.

Women in urban areas have 3,1 children on average, compared with 4,8 children per woman in rural areas.

Fertility is lowest in Bulawayo 2,8 and highest in Manicaland 4,8.

According to the latest available estimates in the Save the Children report, around one million babies born to adolescent girls die before their first birthday.

Babies born to adolescent mothers account for 11 percent of all births worldwide; 95 percent occur in developing countries.

The proportion of stillbirths and deaths in babies’ first week of life are 50 percent higher among women under 20, than among women aged between 20 to 29.

The report states that 222 million is the number of new-born babies’ lives that would be saved if the unmet need for family planning was fulfilled.

It says 79 000 women’s lives would also be saved.

A total of 60 percent is the increased risk of death for babies born to teenage girls under 18, compared to babies born to mothers older than 19.

According to the report, 57 percent of all maternal deaths occur in Africa, it is the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world.

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