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More than a third of Vietnamese young people still lack access to contraceptives - Improving access to sex education and services holds key to preventing teenage pregnancy

10 July 2013

HA NOI, 10 July 2013 – With 16 million girls aged 15-19 giving birth each year worldwide, complications from pregnancy and child birth continue to be the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries.

In the past decade, although Viet Nam has made impressive progress on reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to reproductive health and family planning services, more than a third of young Vietnamese still lack access to the contraception they need. As a result, the rates of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions are still high amongst young girls, especially those who are unmarried.

Addressing a press conference to mark World Population Day 2013 on the theme of adolescent pregnancy, Vice Minister of Health Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien noted:

"There is a very high need for contraception among unmarried young people. The Ministry of Health is collaborating with different ministries to pilot a number of intervention models on Sexual and Reproductive Health for young people and adolescents which have produced positive results. However, these programmes and interventions are mainly focused on married young people"

In Viet Nam, according to national data the unmet need for contraceptives is still 35.4 per cent amongst young people aged 15–19 and 34.6 per cent of young people aged 20–24 years. In 2011, the overall adolescent birth rate in Viet Nam was 46 per 1000. This rate was found to be higher among groups with lower levels of education, poorer living standards, and ethnic minority backgrounds, located in the Northern midland and mountainous regions, and the rural areas.

Worldwide, millions of adolescent girls still face deep discrimination and exclusion that prevent them from claiming their rights and living out their true potential. They are taken out of school early, vulnerable to sexual violence and coercion, and subjected to harmful practices. They often are married as children, and face pregnancy and childbearing before they are physically, emotionally and socially mature enough to be mothers.  The consequences of adolescent pregnancy reverberate throughout the girl’s life and carry over to her children and generations that follow.

“Adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue.  It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, forced and child marriage, power imbalances between girls and their partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions that otherwise should be protecting their rights” noted Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.  

To make sure that Viet Nam achieves the 5th Millennium Development Goal on reducing maternal mortality in every commune in the country by 2015, greater efforts should be devoted to enhancing the quality of sexual and reproductive health services for the most disadvantaged groups. This will also require strengthening the knowledge, skills and attitudes among all public and private service providers of sexual and reproductive health care for unmarried young people.

“We must invest in adolescent girls for their own sake.  Educated and healthy girls have the opportunity to reach their full potential and claim their human rights. They are also more likely to marry later, delay childbearing, have healthier children, and earn higher incomes. They can help lift themselves and their present and future families out of poverty.  They will be a force for change in their communities and generations to come," said Mr. Arthur Erken, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam.

On World Population Day 2013, the Ministry of Health and the United Nations in Viet Nam called for more concerted efforts from the government, international development partners and other concerned stakeholders to join the worldwide observance by creating awareness on the importance of addressing the various factors that contribute to early pregnancy among teenage girls in Viet Nam.

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 For further information, please contact:

Ms Nguyen Thi Hong Thanh

UN Communications 
Tel: (84-4) 3822 4383 – Ext: 117 
Mob: 091 309 3363 
Email: tnguyen@unfpa.org