Myth #1 Marriage before the age of 18 is natural, even American girls marry young.
Unlike their American counterparts who may choose to marry before 18, sixty million girls around the world are forced into marriage. The decision to marry is often made by her parents or the community under economic, cultural or social pressure. Child marriage is a violation of human rights and holds serious consequences for the health and education of both the girl and her community.
Myth #2 Early marriage can prevent HIV/AIDS and violence.
The opposite is generally true – child marriage increases the risk of contracting HIV and violence. Men who marry young girls are likely to have been sexually active prior to the wedding, and may continue to have partners outside of the marriage, while having unprotected sex with his young bride. In developing countries, most sexually active adolescent girls are married, and have higher rates of HIV infection than sexually active girls who are not married. For example, in Kenya the Population Council found 33 percent of married girls aged 15 to 19 were HIV positive, compared to 22.3 percent of their sexually active, unmarried peers. According to CARE, these girls are also twice as likely to be victims of threats or beatings by their husbands compared to girls who marry later in life.
Myth #3 Marriage provides opportunities for young girls whose family can’t provide for them.
Many well-intentioned parents arrange child marriages for a better life for their daughters; however, the consequences are often diminished opportunities. Child brides often stop going to school, resulting in limited opportunities and income-earning potential later in life. Furthermore, child marriage has grave health consequences for both the young women and their children. Child brides are more likely than those married as adults to report early, frequent, and unplanned pregnancies increasing the risk of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. Young mothers are more likely to experience pregnancy complications and fistula, a hole between the birth passage and one or more internal organs causing inability to control their urine and bowel movements. A girl suffering from fistula is often abandoned by her husband and community, and left to die. In fact, complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19. The chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth for girls married at or before age 14 is five times that of those aged 20 to 24. Child brides are more likely to have children with low birth weight, inadequate nutrition and anemia.
Help Stop Child Marriage
Although laws forbidding early marriage exist in most countries, much effort is still needed to ensure enforcement of such laws. The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act would help young women access health services and family planning programs as well as create effective youth programs to educate and empower youth on reproductive health and rights.
Contact your representative to help pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act and end this human rights abuse now!
The previous post, entitled “Men can be the Answer”, explored the need for men to become advocates for reproductive health, so it seems appropriate with Mother’s Day approaching to discuss the impact women can make for maternal health.
Save the Children’s recently released State of the World’s Mothers 2010 index measures the survival rate of mother and child in 160 countries, furthermore it shows the many ways women working on the frontlines of health care are saving lives.
Every year the world’s mothers loose 9 million babies and children before reaching the age of five. Nearly 350,000 women die due to pregnancy or childbirth complications.
A woman living in the developing world is more likely to give birth at home without medical attention and must be given permission by a male or elder decision maker to seek care or treatment or to even leave the home. Save the Children found that having health care providers who were women increased the likelihood that a woman might access care. It is estimated having a skilled birth attendant would save 74 percent of women’s lives.
The hope is to have women health workers to come from and live in the community where they work. There are critically too few female health workers, especially in rural areas.
This is a difficult position to fill because of the state of girls’ education. According to the report, 39 million girls have never attended school while millions more complete only a year or two of education. An equally distressing hardship being faced is the perceived widespread violence and sexual harassment of female health workers.
The clear solution is investing in education for girls. Successful programs around the globe are showing how women health workers can make a big impact with only a few years of education, yet across the board schooling for girls will empower future mothers. Studies show, more education leads to smaller, healthier families.
A good example is in India, where not health care providers but respected, knowledgeable women of the community organized monthly women’s meeting to discuss pregnancy and child care issues. Within three years the newborn mortality rate dropped dramatically and healthy practices increased.
See why Norway was ranked first, the United States came in at 28 and Afghanistan was last by reading the report.
This Earth Day is an important time to reflect on not only climate change, but its effects—including poverty and disease. According to USAID, it is anticipated that the world’s population will increase by 50 percent by 2050; 99 percent of this growth will take place in developing countries, and more than 90 percent of the growth comprises the poorest individuals of these countries.
Organizations such as Population Services International (PSI) are champions in combating the effects of climate change preventing HIV, unintended pregnancies and death from malaria and diarrhea.
Watch Anna Kournikova, former tennis star and PSI Ambassador, as she visits Haiti as part of a public-awareness campaign.
10 Population Health Facts
- Between 1995 and 2005 alone, the urban population of developing countries grew an average of 1.2 million people per week or around 165,000 people per day.
- Evidence from 47 countries on child health outcomes shows higher socioeconomic inequality in urban areas compared to rural areas.
- One in three urban dwellers or 1 billion people worldwide lives in slums.
- Around 32 percent of urban residents in developing regions lack improved sanitation. Globally, it is estimated that 3 percent of all deaths and most diarrheal disease are attributable to the lack of improved drinking water sources, sanitation, and adequate hygiene.
- About 25 percent of city dwellers in developing countries and 70 percent in least developed countries use solid fuels for heating and cooking, causing indoor pollution. This greatly increases the risks of respiratory disease, especially in children, and exacerbates outdoor air pollution.
- Tuberculosis (TB) incidence is much higher in big cities. In New York City, TB incidence is four times the national average. Incidence of TB in some parts of London is as high or higher than in China. The situation is no different in resource-poor countries: 45 percent of TB cases in Guinea live in Conakry; 83 percent of TB cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in cities.
- Developing country cities are particularly vulnerable to health hazards from climate change. In particular, the coastal location of many major cities makes populations more vulnerable to extreme weather and rising sea levels. Heat waves also place cities at risk of the “heat island’ effect, where temperatures may be as much as 41°-52° F (5-11° C) warmer than surrounding rural areas due to dense urban geography and energy sources.
- Prevalence of HIV in generalized epidemics is generally higher in urban areas; population-based household surveys indicate that prevalence is 1.7 times higher in urban than in rural areas.
- The rapid growth of cities has increased the visibility of unequal access to skilled care at birth and to emergency care for urban women.
Source: Knowledge Network on Urban Settings report, the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health