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  • HIV/AIDS Officer at the United Nations Population Fund Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr. Denise Chevannes, is urging stakeholders to focus on adolescent pregnancy prevention, as one of the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Dr. Chevannes informed that Jamaica has the third-highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that the closure of schools is likely to negatively impact the adolescent pregnancy rate.

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

She noted that COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem of adolescent pregnancy and has left more girls susceptible to teenage pregnancy.

Dr. Chevannes informed that Jamaica has the third-highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that the closure of schools is likely to negatively impact the adolescent pregnancy rate.

“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 leads to a premature shift towards income generation,” she said.

“Moreover, outside of the protective environment provided by schools, many girls are more susceptible to adolescent pregnancy and gender-based violence,” Dr. Chevannes added.

She was speaking at the virtual staging of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) annual Pamela McNeil lecture on November 27, which was held under the theme ‘Adolescent Pregnancy: Reducing the Rate within the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic’.

Dr. Chevannes also shared with the audience several impacts that the pandemic has had on the adolescent pregnancy.

Included among them are limited access to contraceptives and other family planning services which can result in an unplanned pregnancy and unsafe abortion; and limited access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education due to the closure of schools and other vocational centres.

Other impacts include a lack of access to health facilities and services because of movement restrictions caused by COVID 19 or due to the fear of being exposed to COVID-19, as well as the diversion of clinical staff to deal with COVID-19 related health issues.

“In Jamaica, in particular where we have, as many as 20 percent of the population in adolescence, the health of this group of individuals has important implication for the health and well-being of the nation,” Dr. Chevannes said.

However, in addressing adolescent pregnancy she said it will not be a “one size fit all” approach.

The country, she said will have to design an intervention that takes into account the different categories of vulnerable groups that exist within the adolescent population, as well as their sexual orientation and gender identities.

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