Teenage pregnancy a major concern for Jharkhand and barrier to development of state’s youth, particularly adolescent girls

Ranchi: The state of Jharkhand ranks 5thin teenage pregnancy in India as per the data of fourth round of National Family Health Survery (NFHS-4), with 20 districts of the state (out of total 24 districts) having higher teenagechildbearing prevalence percentage than the national average of 7.9%. This includes the state’s capital Ranchi as well as 15 other districts (total 16 districts) that have also been categorized as ‘Aspirational Districts’ by NITI Aayog.

The issue stands as a major barrier to the successful development of the youth. Dasra, a leading philanthropic organization, today organized a discussion on ‘Teenage pregnancy in Jharkhand’ to prioritize and address the health and well-being needs of the youth population to combat the challenge of teenage pregnancy and early parenthood, which results in more adverse situation like no education, early marriage, low nutritional status and lesser chances of productive employment or economic security as adults.

Top 10 districts of Jharkhand in terms of estimated Teenage Pregnancy cases (in %)
    Total Rural Urban
  India 7.9 9.2 5
  Jharkhand 12 13.9 6.5
1 Deoghar 22.6 26.9  
2 Godda 21.7 23.4  
3 Garhwa 18.9 19.6  
4 Jamtara 17.5 19  
5 Pakur 17.2 16.5  
6 Giridih 16.2 16.2  
7 Dumka 14.8 16.4  
8 Saraikela-Kharsawan 14.8 16.9  
9 Kodarma 14 15  
10 Sahibganj 13.5 13.4  
Source: National Family Health Survey-4

An extrapolation of the data of Census for Jharkhand and NFHS-4 shows that the state may have about 1.79 lakh cases of teenage pregnancy/childbearing in absolute terms out of its 15-19 years’ adolescent girls’ population of 14.90 lakh. Of this, 85% of the cases are estimated to be in rural Jharkhand at 1.52 lakh in absolute terms. The challenge of teenage pregnancy is exacerbated by lack of access and awareness to healthcare services among adolescents.

Present during the discussion were Dr. Shobha Suri, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Sumantra Mukherjee, State Head, Jharkhand Unit, Child in Need Institute (CINI), SucharitaIyer and Mukesh Raushan, Dasra Adolescence Collaborative. The experts highlighted about the perils of the issue.

“Teenage Pregnancies in India constitute a national emergency and need to be addressed with utmost urgency. Investment in adolescent health and well-being results in a 10-fold economic benefitand are vital for the progress towards achieving UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr. Shobha Suri, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Sumantra Mukherjee, State Head, Jharkhand Unit, Child in Need Institute (CINI) highlighted the multifaceted impact of teenage pregnancies and proposed that “there is a need to increase education among girls as education is inversely proportionate to teenage pregnancies. The dire impact of COVID- 19 on adolescents in terms of discounted schooling, lost livelihoods, mental health issues is quite huge. Going forwards, there is a need to increase access to relevant information for adolescents, the community and service providersto address the issue of teenage pregnancies.”

 

Impact of Covid 19 on adolescent girls

Covid 19 has accentuated the problem and fear is that the progress made in last 10-15 years in reducing cases of twin issues of teenage pregnancy and child marriage may get wiped out due to the pandemic outbreak. Dasra’s ‘Lost in Lockdown’ report, which has studied the impact of Covid 19 related lockdown on working of civil society organisations, highlights that:

  • The lockdown has resulted in a difficulty in terminating unwanted or teenage pregnancy, accessing pregnancy-related care and has also made access to contraception quite difficult. NGOs (12%) reported that at least one girl in the areas they serve had experienced an unintended pregnancy that she desired to terminate, yet had difficulty in acquiring abortion services.
  • During the lockdown, adolescent girls (15.5%) experienced more difficulties in obtaining contraceptive supplies than boys (14%)[1].

 

Side effects of teenage pregnancy

  • Adolescent pregnancies lead to young girls dropping out of schools with an incomplete education.  According to Dasra’s Baseline survey report-[2] 65% of girls completed Class 8 while a mere 38% completed Class 10. Despite efforts to bring them back to school after childbirth, teenage pregnancy jeopardizes girls’ future education and employment opportunities.

  • Early pregnancy also exposes adolescents to the accompanying mental and economic burden of raising a child at a very young age. The prevalence of undernutrition is also higher in children of adolescent mothers compared to children of adult mothers.

  • Further, in the case of unwanted pregnancies it can lead to adolescents being forced into risky health decisions owing to the lack of freely accessible safe abortion services.

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