ASUNCION._ Surveys, analyses and concern have continued to increase in Paraguay over the rising number of girls and adolescents who get pregnant at a very early age and end up becoming mothers while still being children themselves.

Studies by international and non-governmental organizations that defend the rights of children and adolescents have raised alarm about this situation which the Paraguayan government has admitted to be out of control.

Latest statistics show the drama – yet sometimes not the whole picture, according to experts – lived by many of the girls known as the “teenage mothers” of Paraguay, with its consequent social, economic, and psychological impact, as well as its effects on large sectors of the society.

Surveys, analyses and concern have continued to increase in Paraguay over the rising number of girls and adolescents who get pregnant at a very early age and end up becoming mothers while still being children themselves.According to the latest official statistics, one in four pregnant women in Paraguay is an adolescent between the ages of 15 to 19, while women aged 20 to 23 have been pregnant at least once in their life-time.

Paraguay registers the highest teenage pregnancy rate with 63 births for every 1,000 women, and 38 percent of these new mothers give birth before turning 20 years old, according to the UN Population Fund.

Meanwhile, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned about this ever increasing situation among Paraguayan girls and adolescents, noting that integrated public policies are imperative to cope with the resulting social and economic consequences, in order to avoid the regrettable panorama that can be seen in rural areas and cities alike, as well as Asuncion, the capital.

The early pregnancy rate in Paraguay is reaching high numbers with some 600 childbirths recorded every year among girls aged 10 to 14. According to Adriane Salinas, UN officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Paraguay, sexual abuse is the main cause for early pregnancy in the country.

As many as 20,000 births are reported annually among adolescents aged 15 to 19. The vastness of the “teenage mom” phenomenon is becoming a social and economic problem with direct consequences on this already vulnerable sector as well as on Paraguayan society as a whole.

To a large extent, the newborns of teenage mothers have a high mortality rate due to being underweight at birth; a consequence of the mother’s young biological condition and the extreme poverty they usually find themselves in, with scarce living conditions and unreliable access to safe drinking water.

Additionally, most teenage mothers do not have a stable partner and raise the child as a single mother, which makes it impossible for them to finish their education as they are forced to find a decent job – not always successfully – in order to support themselves and their children.

Abortion is illegal in Paraguay and, to make matters worse, a very elevated number of rapes are reported annually for which women and girls are lacking legal resources to face this type of violence.

Paraguay is number one of 16 Latin American countries with the highest female mortality rate due to childbirth or other pregnancy-related causes.

If taking into consideration the lack of a proper sex education programs in public schools and other centers, it is clear why teenagers do not want to use contraception methods or simply lack the knowledge about them; an issue that can be solved and would make the “teenage mom” problem much less severe.

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