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Caricom body endorses plan to reduce adolescent pregnancy in region

Tuesday, August 12, 2014    

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana—  The Caribbean Community's (Caricom's) Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) has approved a plan to reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies in each country of the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean by at least 20 per cent by 2019.

The five-year plan was developed by a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary Regional Task Force led by UNFPA in collaboration with the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown.

The COHSOD commissioned development of the strategy after the Caribbean Co-operation in Health (CCH III) identified the reduction of adolescent pregnancy as an issue to be addressed and treated as a priority by Caricom member states. The CCH is the mechanism of Caricom responsible for uniting the Caribbean territories in a common goal to improve the health and well-being of the people of the region.

It is estimated that around 20 per cent of women in the Caribbean have had at least one child by the age of 19. Furthermore a considerable percentage of adolescent girls give birth before the age of 15. Available data indicate that girls who become pregnant at 15 or younger are more likely to experience premature delivery, low infant birth weight, perinatal mortality and health problems with their new-borns. Additionally, pregnant adolescents are more likely than adults to have unsafe abortions, which contribute substantially to permanent health problems and maternal deaths. Their education is also likely to be interrupted thereby reducing the opportunity to realise their full potential.

Expected results of the plan include ensuring that all adolescents have access to age appropriate, accurate information as well as quality sexual and reproductive health services and commodities; access to age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education for young people in and out of school; implementation of social protection mechanisms for the prevention of all forms of violence against adolescent girls and boys, especially the poorest and most marginalised; and the adoption of common legal standards across the region concerning age of marriage and consent; prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence; and access to social protection and sexual and reproductive health services.

It is also expected that by 2019, Caribbean governments will systematically exchange knowledge, information and adopt good practices in addressing social factors that influence adolescent pregnancy.

Programme manager for human resource development at the Caricom Secretariat, Dr Morella Joseph, had high praises for the process used to develop the strategy.

"The strategy is the culmination of a series of consultations involving a broad range of stakeholders including high level decision makers, adolescents and youth. The various inputs received at all stages were taken into consideration and informed the final version," she remarked. "We are satisfied that it reflects the realities and perspectives of the people of the region and as such, represents an effective multi-faceted approach to achieving the objective of reducing adolescent pregnancy in the region."

Sheila Roseau, director of UNFPA Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, said the entity was pleased to lead the development of a holistic approach and coherent strategy for the reduction of adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean. This, she believes, should contribute to increased opportunities for adolescents and improvements in their health and well-being.

"The strategy will allow adolescent girls to fully exercise their rights including to reproductive health, education and security; to grow to their full potential and to contribute to the development of the region. Since the process of developing the strategy was a collaborative one, I hope countries will implement it with the urgency the issue demands," she added.

Caricom will monitor the implementation of the strategy, identify and co-ordinate country and regional level needs for technical assistance. Caricom will also serve as knowledge broker for South-South co-operation, sharing of best practices on addressing adolescent pregnancy and in identifying high level technical expertise. Select international organisations, including UNFPA will collaborate with Caricom on these activities.

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