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  • Reproductive Health Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr. Mario Aguilar, says investing in the reduction of adolescent pregnancies can lead to significant economic and social gains.
  • Dr. Aguilar informed that a study commissioned by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2009 revealed that the cost per adolescent mother in the region was approximately US$2,000 per year.
  • He said the UNFPA has embarked on a public education campaign to heighten awareness of the threat that adolescent pregnancies pose to girls’ health and well-being and also to a country’s social and economic development.

Reproductive Health Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr. Mario Aguilar, says investing in the reduction of adolescent pregnancies can lead to significant economic and social gains.

Speaking on a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) television programme, ‘Issues and Answers’, he emphasised that every effort must be taken in the region to deal with the issue.

Dr. Aguilar informed that a study commissioned by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2009 revealed that the cost per adolescent mother in the region was approximately US$2,000 per year.

He said the research further revealed that it costs the region about 2.43 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to deal with adolescent mothers.

“If you add all the opportunity costs of adolescent girls not growing to their fullest potential, that climb to 12.3 per cent of the region’s GDP,” he added.

Apart from the cost to society, Dr. Aguilar said the health risks for adolescent mothers and their babies must also be taken into consideration, adding that the percentage of newborn deaths is higher in younger mothers than mature women.

“The fact that they don’t have a good nutrition during their pregnancy in an attempt to hide the pregnancies, that also affects the babies. Lack of folic acid is associated with mental disorders and most of the young girls who are in reproductive age, they don’t take in folic acid, so this is something that is really affecting the population,” he said.

Dr. Aguilar pointed out that some adolescent girls, in an attempt to hide the pregnancies, do not seek antenatal care early, which could have harmful effects for the mother and child.

He said the UNFPA has embarked on a public education campaign to heighten awareness of the threat that adolescent pregnancies pose to girls’ health and well-being and also to a country’s social and economic development.

It is estimated that about 20 per cent of women in the Caribbean have at least one child by the age of 19, with a considerable percentage of adolescent girls even giving birth before the age of 15 years.

Dr. Aguilar said that young people must have access to age appropriate accurate information as well as reproductive health services.

“There is a serious disparity between the age of consent of having sex and legal age to access reproductive health services. In Jamaica it is 16 years compared with

18 years of legal age. That gives us a gap of two years of unprotected sex for young people without being able to access reproductive health services,” he said.

Dr. Aguilar emphasised that this matter should be taken into consideration by the entire Caribbean region, not only in Jamaica.