JAMAICA – High adolescent pregnancy rate gets government attention

HIV/AIDS Officer at the United Nations Population Fund Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr Denise Chevannes, is urging interested parties to focus on adolescent pregnancy prevention, as one of the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twenty percent of the population of Jamaica are adolescents. Their health and well-being has a big effect on the health of the whole nation. She noted that COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem of adolescent pregnancy and has left more girls susceptible to teenage pregnancy.

Dr Chevannes said Jamaica has the third highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the Latin America & Caribbean region, and that the closing of schools was likely to make that situation even worse. “There is also a concern that the closure of schools will cause even more girls to drop out of schools, and the interruption in schools is also likely to increase domestic responsibilities for girls and lead to a premature shift towards income generation. Moreover, outside the protective environment provided by schools, many girls are more susceptible to adolescent pregnancy and gender-based violence.”

She was speaking at the virtual Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation’s annual Pamela McNeil lecture on 27 November, whose theme was ‘Adolescent pregnancy: reducing the rate within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’.

She also pointed out the more limited access to contraceptives and other family planning services which can result in unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion, as well as limited access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education due to the closure of schools and other vocational centres.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Alando Terrelonge also urged young people not to surrender to social pressure to become parents early, or to have children by a certain age, to fit in with society’s expectations. Instead, he encouraged them to empower themselves and to ensure that they wait until they are mentally, financially, and emotionally ready to become a parent – including young men.

SOURCE: St Kitts & Nevis Observer, by Jonathan Mason, 30 November 2020 + PHOTO by Jamaica Loop. Jamaica national ladies soccer team member Marlo Sweatman talks to a girl during one of the series of activities organised by the Government for the Reggae Girlz.