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Motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries, where every year 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth, according to The State of World Population 2013, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, teenage pregnancy is on the decline, but some countries still have high – and in some cases even increasing – adolescent birth rates. And some population groups, such as national minorities, are particularly affected.

The global report, titled "Motherhood in Childhood", offers a new perspective on adolescent pregnancy, looking not only at the girls’ behaviour as a cause of early pregnancy, but also at the actions of their families, communities and governments.

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”

According to the report, early pregnancy takes a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights. It also prevents her from realizing her potential and adversely impacts the baby.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Tajikistan is the country with the highest teenage birth rate (54 births per 1000 women aged 15-19), followed by Georgia, Azerbaijan, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

The Caucasus is the subregion with the highest teenage pregnancy rate (37); the regional average is 32 (for comparison: Switzerland has a rate of 4).