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Jul 11, 2017

UNFPA tackles teen pregnancy and family planning

Across the world July eleventh is observed as World Population Day. It is a day used to draw attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. Since the day was first marked on July eleventh 1990 in more than ninety countries, a number of UNFPA country offices and other organizations and institutions commemorate World Population Day, in partnership with governments and civil society.  This year in Belize, the UNFPA hosted a forum held in partnership with a number of local agencies under the theme: Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations. Andrea Polanco has more.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right; it is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Yet, there are some 214 million women in sixty-nine of the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy and are not using safe and effective family methods. In Belize some women still lack access to information and services and have little to no support from their partners and communities; UNFPA says that family planning is critical and a key factor in reducing poverty.


Tisa Grant, Liaison Officer, UNFPA

Tisa Grant

“Even in humanitarian and crisis situations, family planning is a lifesaving intervention. It prevents unintended pregnancy and in turn reduces health risk of child birth and recourse to unsafe abortions. The rights of women and girls to decide freely for themselves on whether and when and how many children to have brings women and girls more opportunities to become wage earners; boosting family income levels and as women gain access to productive resources they also report better health outcomes. They achieve higher levels of education and report lower incidence of intimate partner violence.”


The teen population faces a growing number of unplanned pregnancies which contribute to a high number of child mortality and cycle of poor health. Here in Belize, seventy four of every one thousand births are to adolescent mothers – mostly those from rural and poor communities.


Augustina Elijio

Augustina Elijio, Chief Nursing Officer/Deputy DHS

“Key to note, that Belize is at 74 per thousand. It is a fact, that for some adolescent pregnancy and child birth are planned, but for many they are not. Adolescent pregnancies are more likely in poor, uneducated, and rural communities. Some girls do not know how to avoid getting pregnant, that is because sex education is lacking in many countries. They may feel too inhibited or ashamed seek contraceptive services or not widely or legally available. Even when contraceptives are widely available, sexually active adolescent girls are less likely to use them. Adolescent pregnancy and child birth is associated with greater health risk to the mothers; that is where we get low birth weight for the babies and there would also be some other complications of pregnancy and child birth which are leading cause of death in adolescent girls age 15-19.”


But unplanned pregnancies are not always unwanted. Teen mother Ishell West says raising a baby at a young age wasn’t easy, but the support from home helped her to continue her studies to build a better life. She says other teen girls do not have to experience what she did.


Ishell West

Ishell West, Teen Mom

“I am asking parents, kindly, even if you think it is shameful or something, you can implement birth control because you cannot stop females in our generation now. It may sound simple because they are in school and what’s not. It is better if you implement contraceptives instead of aborting or having to deal with the situation that I went through. I must say that if it was something that should happen again, I would pursue my goals first then think about having a child but it happened the way it happened and I am proud teen mom.”


But the reality is that most teen moms do not have the support like Ishell West – and so the UNFPA has developed integrated strategic framework that aims to reduce adolescent pregnancies by twenty percent by 2019 – a goal they set for the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean since 2014 – including Belize. And so in Belize there is a need to protect young and girls boys starting with reaching into the farthest corners and go even into schools and homes to inform and provide health services.


Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy of Women and Children

Kim Simplis Barrow

“Sex education is very important. Personally, I think it has to be in all schools. But most importantly, parents need to take responsibility in starting that conversation at home I think children should be presented with all options – abstinence – why, because you are still young and you are still growing and not mature enough that is not what you do right now. Right now you should be focusing on your studies. Contraceptives – you have to teach your children about contraceptives. And it is not only to our boys; we tend to only empower our boys by telling them that they should use a condom. And what do we tell our girls? Nothing, really. So, we need to start empowering our girls. When I talk about rural areas, I am talking about the people in PG that are living in Otoxa that don’t have no cable, no internet – that is what I am talking about. So, it has to be a multi-sectoral approach. It has to be with the Ministry of Health because they have their rural nurses in those regions providing education and taking them information in their own languages.”


Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.

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1 Response for “UNFPA tackles teen pregnancy and family planning”

  1. Marie says:

    Women have the right to choose. That right is to choose not to have sexual intercourse, use protection or take the pill. It is not a right to choose to kill a baby. Family planning is deceptive and letting them in Belize is a grave mistake.

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