As per the 2016 NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey) data every 8th adolescent girl in Jharkhand in the age bracket of 15-19 years is either pregnant or a teenage mother. The data further states that Jharkhand ranks at the fifth place across the country and have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in India at 12 per cent.
As many as 20 districts in the State including the Capital city have higher teenage childbearing prevalence percentage that the national average of 7.9 per cent. The top two districts with the highest rate of teenage pregnancies are Deoghar at 22.6 percent and Godda at 21.7 percent. This is closely followed by other districts like Garhwa- 18.9 per cent, Jamtara — 17.5 per cent and Pakur — 17.2 per cent. Out of this 86 per cent of the cases are estimated to be in rural Jharkhand at 1.52 lakh in absolute terms.
NFHS-4 data further states that Jharkhand is estimated to have about 1.79 lakh cases of teenage pregnancies and childbearing in absolute terms out of an adolescent girl population- 15 to 19 years of 14.9 lakh.
To combat the challenge of teenage pregnancy and early parenthood, a discussion on ‘Teenage Pregnancy in Jharkhand’ was organised on January 20. Present during the discussion were Dr Shobha Suri, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Sumantra Mukherjee, State Head, Jharkhand Unit, Child in Need Institute (CINI) Sucharita Iyer and Mukesh Raushan, Dasra Adolescence Collaborative.
Speaking on the occasion Suri stated, “Teenage pregnancies in India constitute a national emergency and needs to be addressed with utmost urgency. Adolescent is the most rapid and formative phase of human development. Adolescent health is crucial for shaping both the future of the world’s health and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals related to health, nutrition, education, gender equality and food security.”
“There are numerous national programs and policies which focus on adolescents in India. The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) was launched in 2014 is aimed to improve the continuum care for adolescent health and development needs. It targets all adolescents of 10- 19 years in urban and rural areas, married or unmarried, in school or out of school. Community based interventions covers Peer Education, Adolescent Health Days (AHD) and Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) among others. Facility based interventions focus on strengthening the delivery of clinical and counselling services through Adolescent Friendly Clinics (AFHCs),” added Suri.
“There is a need to increase education among girls, as education is inversely proportionate to teenage pregnancies. The impact of Covid-19 in terms of discontinued schooling, lost livelihoods, mental health issues is also quite huge. There is a need to increase access to relevant information for adolescents,” stated Mukherjee.
Adolescent pregnancies also lead to young girls dropping out of school with an incomplete education. According to a survey by Dara in Jharkhand 65 per cent girls completed class VIII while only 38 per cent completed class X. Early pregnancy also exposes adolescents to mental and economic burdens of raising a child at a very young age.
Dasra’s ‘Lost in Lockdown’ report states that the lockdown has resulted in a difficulty in terminating unwanted or teenage pregnancy, accessing pregnancy related care and has also made access to contraception difficult. During the lockdown about 15.5 per cent adolescent girls experienced more difficulty in obtaining contraceptive supplies as compared to 14 per cent boys.