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Adolescent mothers, Nairobi and abroad

July 21, 2010

Kate Mitchell at Maternal Health Task Force shared a great website aggregating data and maps about adolescent girls. It’s definitely worth exploring the maps on health and well-being…

This raises an issue that is important to us at Jacaranda Health. In poorer areas of Nairobi, rates of adolescent pregnancy are high and accompanied by significant maternal health challenges — adolescents are less likely to give birth in a facility; less likely to be educated about family planning, STI prevention, and HIV care; and often face social stigma when seeking maternity and antenatal care.

A recent report by PopCouncil, Adolescence in the Kibera Slums, chronicles and quantifies the experiences of young men and women living in low-income areas — where are their parents, what are their livelihoods, where (if) they go to school, relationships and sexual behaviors. Some findings:

16% of adolescent girls age 19 reported having babies, but only 62% of them indicated wanting those pregnancies at the time. 43% of adolescent girls surveyed said their first sexual experience was coerced.

This 16% figure is one of the lower ones we’ve seen. Another very thorough survey of informal settlements across Nairobi, Population and Health Dynamics in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements, also measures these issues. A few examples from this long report:

Only 22% of girls age 15-17 were still attending school.

Over 50% of girls had had a child or were pregnant by age 20.

Clearly there is a need for economic empowerment and better social support structures — and just as importantly, maternity and reproductive health care that meets the needs of these young women. At Jacaranda Health, we have working on how to incorporate care for adolescents into our model of antenatal care and maternity services. We have been talking to people who focus on adolescent reproductive health, from local experts, NGOs, and pediatricians to organizations like Population Council and the Nike Foundation.

The next post will address a few good solutions we’ve seen, and ways we are planning to incorporate adolescent health into our model of care… Meanwhile, if you have any ideas to add, feel free to share it with us.

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