Wednesday, May 25, 2016

El Salvador's Suffering

When we talk about all the children from Central America being sent to the US by their parents, alone across hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, you have to ask why.

Here's one explanation from El Salvador. The country is facing a record wave of murders — 22 killings a day, on average, in the first three months of 2016. For years, the nation has been considered one of the deadliest on earth.

Rape at the hands of relatives and a lack of sex education (El Salvador has no formal curriculum on sex education, and schools are not required to provide it) are driving pregnancies among girls in El Salvador, which is struggling to stem one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America. More than a third of all pregnancies in the Central American nation are among girls aged 10 to 19, and girls as young as 9 have become pregnant. Rape and incest at the hands of grandfathers, fathers and other relatives is often the cause of pregnancies in girls aged 10 to 14, although there are no official figures.

"With adolescent pregnancies there's always a component of violence through either incest, or violence in the family, or domestic violence," Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza, explained. "Fathers migrate, leaving mothers to be the sole breadwinner. Mothers find work in the garment factories and work all day so children are free, left alone," he said. "They are completely vulnerable." 

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among teenage girls worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Latin America, the risk of maternal death is four times higher among girls under 16 compared to women in their early twenties.

Initiatives to develop a nationwide curriculum on sex education have been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical groups. In 2008, the church blocked a manual for teachers, created by the education ministry, from being used to teach sexual health in schools.

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