What pregnancy looks like in 10 developing countries

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Pregnancy and childbirth can be many things – exciting, joyful, challenging and painful.

But pregnancy and childbirth can be other things too, including dangerous and potentially fatal. In fact, 830 women and girls die everyday from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries.

We’ve put together a collection of images to demonstrate some of the crucial issues surrounding pregnancy and childbirth in developing countries and to highlight the importance of increasing access to healthcare – especially in rural and remote communities.


Adolescent girls like Ahjatu (pictured above) are more likely than older women to die due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, 70,000 will die this year alone, making pregnancy and childbirth the leading cause of death for adolescent girls in the developing world.

In Ghana, one third of all births registered are to adolescent girls. Not only is pregnancy and childbirth potentially life-threatening, but it can also put an end to a girl’s education. In Ahjatu’s case, she dropped out after finishing Grade 7 and moved in with her boyfriend to begin their life as a family.

SEE ALSO: Removing the barriers to healthcare for pregnant teens in Ghana


35% of Senegalese women who live in rural areas deliver their children at home, often without a skilled midwife or birth attendant present – a dangerous practice that endangers both mother and child.

As a midwife in rural Senegal, Madame Badji (pictured above) is working to remove barriers  and ensure that more women and girls access their rights to safe healthcare, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

SEE ALSO: Meet the midwife breaking down barriers to accessing healthcare in Senegal

El salvador

El Salvador has one of the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies in Latin America. In 2015, more than one third of all births were to girls under the age of 18. The issue is especially prevalent in remote and low-income areas, where education and greater awareness are needed.

In schools in the communities we work in, Plan International is engaging youth to learn more about their sexual and reproductive health rights and providing them with opportunities to learn more about the consequences of teen pregnancy through fun-yet-informative workshops where young people get a glimpse of what it might be like to have a baby.


According to UNICEF, Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world – 76% of girls in Niger are married before their 18th birthday and 28% are married before age 15.

When girls are married young, they often have babies before their bodies are ready. Haoua* (pictured above) was married at age 14 and got pregnant soon after. Her baby died in childbirth and she has been left incontinent and with a fistula, as her young body was not ready for childbirth.  

Plan International is working to end child marriage in Niger, and many other countries, by promoting girls’ education and agency, and working with lawmakers to enforce a minimum age of 18 for marriage.

SEE ALSO: 4 serious health consequences of child marriage


Imagine this – you’re heavily pregnant and in need of urgent medical attention but you reside in a rural village where the nearest healthcare facility is miles away. In the past, women in rural Zambia in this position had few choices besides walking or having someone carry them or push them in a wheelbarrow. But now there is a new solution helping women access healthcare – it’s called a “Zambulance”.

This local ambulance, which is essentially a bike with a trailer attached to it, is large enough for a patient to lie down comfortably and be transported to the hospital much faster than by foot. Trained community volunteers ride the Zambulances between villages and hospitals when pregnant woman need them most.


According to the World Health Organization, Bolivia ranks as the most violent country for women in Latin America. U.N. Women also reports that 70 percent of Bolivian women have suffered physical or sexual violence during their lives, with aggression against women the most reported crime in the country.

To combat these statistics, Plan International’s work in Latin America focuses on engaging men and helping them re-shape their perspectives on what it means to be a man – which in Latin America can often mean being macho, aggressive and even violent. Instead, men participate in groups and workshops in which they learn to be empathetic and supportive partners who stand up for the women and girls in their lives and take a more active role in nurturing and raising their children. 


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), preterm birth is the world’s leading cause of newborn mortality, and about 20 million low-birth-weight infants are born each year – over 95% of them in developing countries. And yet, one simple practice – coined “Kangaroo care” – could save an estimated 450,000 preterm newborns a year.

This clinic in Zimbabwe, dubbed the “Kangaroo care clinic”, is helping save the lives through a technique whereby a premature infant is held against a mother’s chest using a cloth wrap. This skin-to skin contact is maintained for extended periods of time, both day and night, along with frequent breastfeeding. The practice meets a premature baby’s needs for warmth and safety, helping them stay alive.

South Sudan

South Sudan is facing one of the largest displacement crises in the world. Nearly 4.5 million South Sudanese have been forcibly displaced since civil war broke out in December 2013. Many of the internally displaced peoples (IDPs) have relocated to temporary camps where access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare may be limited. The woman in the picture is one of an estimated 280,000 pregnant women affected by the ongoing crisis.  

According to the UNFPA, approximately 85 per cent of the 2 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan are women and children.


Bangladesh has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world – nearly 60% of girls in the country are married before they turn 18. Many of them will soon become mothers, making access to healthcare a key priority, especially in hard-to-reach rural areas, to ensure that both mom and baby are healthy.

Plan International is working to reduce child marriage rates in Bangladesh, and recently we helped innovate an app that has so far prevented more than 3,700 child marriages.

SEE ALSO: 3 innovative apps protecting girls around the world


The Philippines tops the list as the country with the narrowest gender gap in Asia, according 2018 Global Gender Gap report commissioned by the World Economic Forum.

Plan International has been working in the Philippines for nearly 60 years to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. Part of that work includes engaging men and boys to be champions for gender equality. As part of their learning and awareness, men are encouraged to be active partners, helping their partners with daily household tasks, such as laundry, and childrearing.

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Plan International is committed to promoting gender equality and increasing access to healthcare around the world. Learn how our programming benefits families and why your name could help save the lives of moms and babies in developing countries.

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