Posted: April 30, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY

The Number One Killer of Teens in Africa


For teenage women in Africa, the chances of becoming pregnant are high. Sadly so are the chances of facing fatal complications associated with these pregnancies.

In fact, Africa has the world’s highest rate of adolescent pregnancy, a factor which hinders many young women from pursuing an education and reaching their earning potential as adults. Despite many attempts to improve sex education and AIDS awareness among Africa’s youth, teen pregnancy rates have continued to climb. The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has played a large part in this.

The Ebola Outbreak: Teen Pregnancy Rates Rise

While the region closed schools in an attempt to control the growing outbreak, teen girls became an easier target for sexual assault and rape. In Sierra Leone and Liberia the recent pregnancy rates have stood as a testament to this. The majority of these girls could not return to school one classrooms reopened  due to their pregnancy’s impact on already dwindling funds. This, in turn, impacts the developing area and raises both societal and economical roadblocks. Fewer woman are receiving the education they need to reach their earning potential and as a result, the entire region continues to suffer over time. If the cycle is not broken, poverty remains.

Fatalities from pregnancy also grew during the outbreak. Those who became pregnant during this time faced extremely limited access to hospitals as they were filled with patients suffering from the Ebola virus.

Other Pregnancy Statistic and Factors

  •  In 2013, the BBC reported that nearly 182,000 female high school students become pregnant each year in South Africa. Of these pregnant teens, many are as young as 14.
  • According to the Human Sciences Research Council of the World Bank 18% off all students in South Africa either become pregnant or get someone pregnant.
  • In KwaZulu Natal 3 million out of the 10.5 million population are HIV positive.
  • Because it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex under South African law, often teenagers (even pregnant mothers) may be prosecuted.
  • Aside from sexual assault another factor for teenage pregnancy is that impoverished families often marry off their young daughters to older men for money to help them survive.
  • According to the 2014 World Health Statistics findings, the rates of pregnancy between the ages of 15 and 19 are 299 births per 1000 girls.

Complications Associated With Teen Pregnancy in the Developing World

Health Complications

Teen pregnancies are riskier than adult pregnancies for several reasons. The rates of low birth weight, preterm birth and asphyxia are higher in the babies of adolescent women as well as the chance of death or serious complications later on. Additionally, statistics have shown that stillbirths and deaths in the first week are 50% more likely to occur in babies born to mothers who are under 20 years of age than those born to women 20-29.

Community Impact

Aside from the medical complications of teen pregnancy in Africa and other areas of the developing world, other factors continue to adversely affect these regions as a result of these high pregnancy rates.

As pregnant teens often do not return to school, the lack of education becomes a contributing factor to their continued poverty. It’s been stated that if teenage pregnancy rates would decline, the population rate would decline, leaving a greater chance for improved social and economical outcomes.