Caribbean teenage pregnancies on the rise – UN report

NEW YORK, United States, Thursday October 31, 2013, CMC – A new United Nations report has spotlighted what it describes as the high rates of teenage pregnancies in the Caribbean and other developing countries.

The report, released here on Wednesday, has called on Governments to help girls achieve their full potential through education and adequate health services.

“The State of World Population 2013,” produced by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), notes that out of the 7.3 million births, 2 million are to girls who are 14 or younger, many of whom suffer “grave long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy.”

The report says that an estimated 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin.

“The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control,” he added. “It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”

In the Caribbean, the countries with the highest rate of teen pregnancy are Belize, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The report   seeks to offer a new perspective on teenage pregnancy, looking not only at girls’ behaviour as a cause of early pregnancy but also at the actions of their families, communities and Governments.

In addition, it says a country’s economy is also affected by teenage pregnancies as adolescent mothers are prevented from entering the workforce.

Besides funding, the report stresses that, in order to tackle teenage pregnancy, “countries must adopt a holistic approach, which does not dwell on changing girls’ behaviour but seeks to change attitudes in society so girls are encouraged to stay in school, child marriage is banned, girls have access to sexual and reproductive health including contraception, and young mothers have better support systems.”

While teenage pregnancy is a much bigger challenge in developing countries, the report also found that it is a significant issue in developed ones.

In the United States, for example, the report says only about half of the girls who become pregnant as adolescents complete high school by 22, compared to nine out of 10 girls who do not become pregnant.

The report says teen pregnancies harms the US economy as a whole costing taxpayers nearly US$11 billion. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)