In 2009, the UN estimated that as many as 53,000 women in Nigeria pass on annually, owing to pregnancy-related illnesses. The frightening rate, sadly, has not come down. Nigeria is a statistic for the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and conjecture and research show that this occurs mostly due to the unholy and heady mix of poverty, poor health care services and a culture that keeps discussions on sex away from the ambit of acceptable conversation.
A large part of Nigeria struggles from poor development. As is the case in any social setting where the economy is frugal at best, poverty is the perfect backdrop that sets the ball of crime rolling. Nigeria is no different. A situation set in poverty and fraught with economic problems is a hotbed for crime, and naturally, therefore, there is no element of surprise in that rape is a highly perpetrated crime. In addition to this, there is also the fact that a lot of girl children and teenage girls are forced into motherhood simply because no one tells them what sex is.
That is where the first mistake lies. Sex cannot, and is not to be construed as a taboo topic. In a globally advanced setting, nothing can be brushed aside lightly as unfit for discussion.
The advent of teenage pregnancy sets a cycle in motion. Many a girl who is pregnant at such a young age, is obviously caught off guard, and knows precious little about how vital it is to keep her life safe, and to keep her health in the right condition. They do not know how significant pre and ante-natal care is for their own good health and well being.
Doubtless, teenagers having babies in Nigeria perpetuates a cycle of poverty and exposes both, the mother and the child to greater health risks. The very fact that society has ignored the problem is what has allowed the thriving of this unholy practice. Nigerian culture, forbids teenage pregnancy, but, the forbidding nature is so strict that even discussions and even conversations about sex are forbidden.
When DeltaWomen worked on the issue with girls on field, the youngest was 13. It is appalling that this situation is still allowed to burgeon, without as much as any care for the future, and the implications that it would have on the girls themselves, and on society. The urgent need is information, action and awareness. Girls will never know they have rights until someone tells them, and teaches them what sex implies. Girls will never have help unless there is some mode of health care that safeguards their health and puts them on a healthy track.