Last two years (November 2019), in Nairobi the world came together to celebrate and remind itself of commitments they made in Cairo 25 years ago during the ICPD. Countries including Ghana made renewed commitments at the conference to ensure that the three zeros are achieved.
This year’s theme for the national Demographic Summit was, “The cost of avoidable pregnancies”. This theme is relevant to the three transformative results namely; zero avoidable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices towards the realisation of the SDGs by 2030.
However, figures released by the Ghana Health Service on teenage pregnancies for 2020 alone in Ghana is quite alarming. The figures showed that 2,865 girls between age 10 to 14 were impregnated. These are girls who cannot even give consent to sex by law. Similarly, 107,023 pregnancies were recorded among girls aged 15 to 19 years. These are girls who are supposed to be in school. These figures I believe are only those that sought medical assistance with Ghana Health Service facilities. How many of such girls are likely to develop serious complications or die during childbirth? How many would have to compromise on their education and a better future livelihood? How many of the children they give birth to will survive within the first five years or find themselves in the classroom? What is the inter-generational cost that we pay as a result of such avoidable pregnancies and how is it likely to affect the quality of our youthful population? We may have the numbers but it is more important to think in terms of the quality of the numbers.
Speaking at the Summit, I mentioned that These issues call for the reawakening of our conscience as a nation. Who will pay for this cost? These victims may not be our children or our family members but one day, they may determine whether we survive or die. If for nothing at all let’s think about the long-term socio-cultural health, economic and environmental costs.
We can achieve zero maternal deaths if we can avoid high-risk pregnancies. If women especially adolescents’ girls have information, choices and access to contraceptives, zero unmet need will be achieved. If we can put to an end gender-based violence and harmful practices, especially child marriage, we will be able to fight the battle against high-risk pregnancies.