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Oct 26, 2018

The Power of Choice to Determine the Size and Spacing of Families

A report on the State of the World Population was released today. Globally, the report finds that the size of families is reducing. This is because individuals exercise the power to choose the number of children they want and when they want. The report found that it can also lead to economic and social development. But how does Belize feature? Here, the size of the family is also getting smaller but there is concern that while there has been some progress, teenage pregnancy has remained prevalent. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Belize and the rest of the Caribbean are well in line with the global trend towards smaller families. It is a reflection of the reproductive choices taken to determine the spacing and number of children. Those choices are determined through educational, labour, health and economic policies that enhance options. Across this region and the world, on average the fertility trend is that there are two point six children per couple; a figure which has changed over the years.

 

Maria Pilar De La Corte Molina

Dr. Maria Pilar De La Corte Molina, Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor, UNFPA

“If you talk about countries with high fertility rates, those countries, the population face lack of access to sexual reproductive health services, lack of education, lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education, gender imbalances that limit women to choose the number of children that they would like to have and also policies that in some cases don’t enable them to have the right to choose. And then you have those countries with low fertility rates where you can see it is difficult for many couples and women in making a balance between career and having children. Also because childcare is very expensive so they cannot afford to have more children and also because in these countries there is the delay of maternity.”

 

The State of the World Population 2018 report by the United Nation Population Fund was officially launched today. The report, entitled “The Power of Choice” focused primarily on reproductive rights and the demographic transition, highlighting that the power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children can bolster economic and social development.

 

Dr. Maria Pilar De La Corte Molina

“It’s highlighting how within a country you have those type of situations and how some countries are facing issues and challenges related to high fertility rates and other countries with low fertility rates are also facing challenges. The region is in the situation where it can go to the situation where it can go below replacement levels, which can become an issue. But while the fertility trend is very in line with global trends, the adolescence fertility rate is still high and in some countries very high. So the average for the Caribbean is sixty.”

 

With that glaring statistic, the UNFPA has been working with governments to develop policy and support awareness initiatives. In Belize the data is a little higher where seventy-four per every one thousand children are captured in the teenage pregnancy category. To address this issue, the Ministry of Health has been working with the Ministry of Education and other agencies to provide access to information and proper family planning, sexual reproduction health and more. Doctor Natalia Largaespada Beer is the Maternal and Child Health Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Belize. The statistics were recently released in a national consultation on the health of adolescents.

 

Natalia Largaespada Beer

Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Technical Advisor, Maternal and Child Health, MOH

“Adolescent birth rate play a role, especially for us here in Belize, especially since it is still high in contributing to this total fertility rate. It’s a complex indicator that is linked to economic and social factors, social determinants, where the issue highlighted in the report is the issue of choice. We have currently in the last years, one thousand four hundred and one thousand five hundred girls delivering before completing twenty years of age. So we call that adolescent moms. In the ideal world, no adolescents should be having kids, but we have on the other hand the law where with parental consent up to the age of sixteen, parents can consent for marriage. We have the ministry of education providing the services within schools through the health and family life education. We have the Belize Family Life Association; they are providing comprehensive sexual education and services to adolescents. They are not countrywide; they are working in four districts, but we definitely need to improve the coverage of services providing information and commodities to adolescents.”

 

The UNFPA Belize has been working with government since 2003 and supports with ensuring that men, women and girls can exercise their reproductive rights. Currently, a national comprehensive adolescent health strategy is being developed.

 

Tisa Grant

Tisa Grant, Liaison Officer, UNFPA [Belize]

“In addition to advocacy and policy support, there is support for capacity building. There is support for the procurement of the necessary contraceptives to be able to make those accessible. In the past, we’ve supported with the care protocols for maternal care. So the support that is given is actually wide and is guided by what the priorities of the Ministry of Heath are. More recently and during the course of this year, there is a lot of prioritization of adolescent health and so this is where most of our support is going now, in the development of the strategy. We are conducting currently an assessment of the provision of sexual and reproductive health services to young people as well as marginalized groups including even those persons with disabilities.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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