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U.N. focus on teen pregnancy a chance to talk sex
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BEIRUT: Lebanon’s adolescent birth rate is well below that of developing countries as a whole, according to statistics issued by the U.N. to mark World Population Day Thursday. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), almost 1⁄5 of girls have given birth by age 18 in developing countries, some three out of 100 by age 15. In Lebanon, UNPFA data puts the country’s teen birth rate at 18 in every 1,000 live deliveries.

The issue of teen pregnancy was the focus of this year’s World Population Day.

“About 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, and complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death among girls in this age group, especially in developing countries,” the UNPFA said in statement Thursday.

Although teen pregnancy is not such a major issue in Lebanon, Zein Nahas, communication and media associate with the UNPFA in Lebanon, told The Daily Star that it was still a good opportunity for Lebanese to talk about sexuality and the empowerment of young girls in terms of their reproductive health.

Progress is being made in the form of a revised curriculum following a “green light” from the Education Ministry in 2009 to introduce basic life skills lessons in public schools covering, among other topics, sexual and reproductive health, Nahas explained.

“Adolescents and youth must be provided with age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to develop the knowledge and skills they need to protect their health throughout their lives,” the UNPFA statement said.

However, it said education and information alone were insufficient: “Good quality reproductive health services must also be readily available in order for adolescents to make informed choices and be healthy.”

Data released by the UNPFA Lebanon also indicated the country had made significant progress on reducing maternal mortality. According to the most recent data on the body’s website, the rate had plummeted to 26 deaths per 100,000 live births from 140 per 100,000 live births in 1996, making Lebanon one of the best performing countries in the Arab world in this respect.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 12, 2013, on page 4.
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