By Alexis R. Milan
Representatives from CARICOM member states met in St. Lucia this past week to discuss a strategy and plan of action to address the issue of teenage pregnancy in the region.
The meeting is a consultation aimed at securing broad-based multi-stakeholder engagement and support before the framework is presented to CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD).
According to Sheila Roseau, director of the UNFPA Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, teenage pregnancy is one of the major challenges standing in the way of girls’ education and their ability to achieve their full potential, especially when the necessary support systems are not in place. “We cannot talk about sustainable development without addressing in a serious way, the needs of young people who make up over 60 percent of the population of CARICOM,” she said.
According to a report published by the UNFPA last October, Belize recorded one of the countries with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean. It stated that Belize’s adolescent birth-rate for girls ages 15-19 was 90 per 1,000.
Comparatively in Antigua, the adolescent birth-rate in the same report was 67 per 1,000; 41 per 1000 in the Bahamas; 50 per 1000 in Barbados; and out of the same 1000, Dominica recorded 48; 87 in Guyana; 69 in Haiti; 72 in Jamaica; 67 in St. Kitts;49 in St Lucia; and 70 in St. Vincent.
According to the findings “Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region where births to girls under age 15 rose. In this region, such births are projected to rise slightly through 2030.
In 2013, in Belize crime statistics also reflected this trend. According to police statistics released for the last year reported cases of carnal knowledge increased from 56 in 2012 to 73 in 2013 while arrests for carnal knowledge rose from 35 in 2012 to 48 in 2013.
CARICOM organised the meeting with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The event took place from April 29-30.