Teen pregnancies: 37 cases cases recorded in first quarter

Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation's PS Jennifer Poole. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

BETWEEN January and April this year, Fiji recorded 37 cases of teenage pregnancies, says Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Ministry permanent secretary Jennifer Poole.

The figures are cases attended to by the Department of Social Welfare.

She said casework so far showed that most of those cases were a result of consensual sex motivated by infatuation or love.

Ms Poole said the figure had nothing to suggest that the Government’s new mother’s benefit program baby bonus initiative had motivated those pregnancies.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, Ms Poole said the Government commenced the new mother’s benefit program in recognition of the financial challenges of young families.

“The new benefit for mother’s ensured new babies are registered after birth and are entered into school,” she said.

“The ministry is nonetheless concerned about the rates of teenage pregnancies and we will continue to work with partners in government and civil society to investigate causal factors while continuing to support vulnerable women and girls.

“We need to invest in sexual reproductive health programs and create more access for teenagers, both girls and boys, to family life education and information about contraception so every child is planned.

“As child rearing is expensive and this fact it is not unique to Fiji. Newborn babies require a lot of financial support.”

Ms Poole said the initiative had a clear objective and that was to support low-income families to cater for the expenses of having a newborn baby because whether or not a child was planned, giving them what was needed for their wellbeing was important since it was their right.

“It is far too soon to assess what effect this new initiative will have on overall fertility in Fiji, or on teenage pregnancies, if any,” she said.

“The introduction of the government’s baby bonus initiative has indeed assisted those in most need.

“We recognise that this new program will need to be monitored but it is important that we capture and assess available data as we modernise as a nation.”

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