In Freetown, Sierra Leone, one in ten pregnant teenagers dies in pregnancy or around the time of birth.*
That’s an alarming statistic – much higher than the already poor statistics for maternal death in the general population. For perspective, in the UK the maternal death rate is roughly 1 in 10,000.
*In 2015, from a household survey of 1500 births in Kuntorloh, an Eastern suburb of Freetown, carried out by Lifeline Nehemiah Projects.
Why are so many pregnant adolescents dying?
Adolescent pregnancy is very common in Sierra Leone. Girls are under huge pressure to engage in transactional sex – with teachers for grades, to cover their school fees and to pay for food and clothes.
Adolescent pregnancy in Sierra Leone also carries huge stigma. When a girl becomes pregnant, she may be abandoned by her family. She may find herself relying for food and shelter on people who mistreat her. She may miss out on important antenatal and delivery care as she is worried she will be treated badly by medical professionals at the clinic. She may become sick and anaemic due to lack of food and pregnancy medication.
In many cases, she will have no one she can trust to look out for her.