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Georgetown, Guyana – (February 3, 2017) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, today, attended the Adolescent Health Unit of the Ministry of Public Health’s launch of the Adolescent Clinic Day, Community Parenting Support Group, as well as the Situational Analysis on Teen Pregnancies Report at the Savannah Suites, Pegasus. The Ministry of Public Health implemented the Community Parenting Support Groups at several clinics based in community health centres across Guyana to educate and empower young parents, especially mothers to make sound decisions and choices regarding their health and well being. These support groups will be operated by doctors and other medical personnel and will provide family planning and child health services.

The First Lady in her remarks said that the health and well being of young girls is of primary importance. “It is a matter of concern that the Caribbean ranks second to Sub-Saharan Africa as having the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world. Any thinking person would be greatly concerned that Guyana has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the commonwealth Caribbean, with the highest proportion of teenage mothers located in Sophia greater Georgetown,” Mrs. Granger said.

A section of the audience at the launching of the Adolescent Clinic Day, Community Parenting Support Group and Situational Analysis on Teen Pregnancies.

She added that adolescent mothers lose out on their education and she was heartened at the fact that programs were being implemented to encourage and empower the young expectant mothers to continue their development towards leading productive lives. “The admirable initiative of the Ministry of Public Health to support teen mothers must be applauded. Praise must also be given to the inclusion of young fathers in support groups that have been and are being established in different locations throughout our country. The dedication and commitment of the doctors, nurses and other staff of those centres will be a key factor in determining the success of this initiative,” Mrs. Granger said

The First Lady further urged the Ministry of Public Health to collaborate with other Ministries to develop strategies aimed at addressing the issues affecting teenage parents.

Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, in her remarks, emphasised the importance of addressing the social ills affecting adolescents and young people. She said that since the APNU/AFC administration took office, several initiatives and interventions by the Government, in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) agencies and other non-governmental organisations have been implemented to target this important demographic.

“I further want to highlight United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population report that has provided Guyana with the current data on our adolescents and youths. The importance of this data cannot be underestimated. We now have a clear picture of the numbers involved and the range of issues as well as an insight into the strategies needed to overcome these challenges,” Minister Lawrence said.

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Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence addresses the attendees.

The Minister said that the information gathered from the State of the World Population report has detailed Guyana’s mental health problems and identified it, as one of the main causes of illness and disability among adolescents. She continued that adolescent pregnancy emerges as a social, economic and health issue that threatens the sustainable development of Guyana.

“The [Community Parenting Support Groups] offer the mother an opportunity to interact in an ambience that is non-judgemental and respectful. They need not fear disrespect nor disdain but rather can participate freely in discussions that concern their maternal health and learn more about their bodies and other related pregnancy topics,” Minister Lawrence said.

Minister Lawrence said that this initiative will likely foster positive outcomes and a change in unhealthy behaviours, as well as the adoption of positive attitudes among adolescents.

Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Amna Ally, in her remarks, said that the launch of the initiative is a testimony to the high level of commitment shown by the administration to the nation’s youth. She said that the adolescent period is a critical stage. “I would like to categorically state that we must never grow weary of continuously highlighting the importance of investing in our children. We can and must seek to create and establish strategic policies and program oriented goals that facilitate the development of their full potential especially their health and well-being,” Minister Ally said.

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(First Row L – R) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister within the Ministry of Education Ms. Nicolette Henry, Minister of Public Health Ms.. Volda Lawrence and Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs Mr. Keith Allicock, observe a moment of silence for the late LaShay Johnson, former Peer Educator.

Additionally the Minister within the Ministry of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry spoke on the importance of safeguarding adolescents. “I call upon all of us; international community, civil society and in particularly Adolescent Health Unit, to ensure that the services that are provided through this initiative are well tailored to meet the needs of our young people. It is my hope that this clinic day and teen support initiative will benefit and improve the health and well-being of our adolescents nationwide,” Minister Henry said.

Chief Medical officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud said that the Ministry of Health intends to focus on issues affecting adolescents and implementing ways and means of dealing with those situations. “We want to ensure that before that girl gets that first strike that we avoid those situations… by providing the kinds of services that are necessary and that are absolutely essential,” Dr. Persaud said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Oneka Scott, Co-ordinator of Adolescent Health and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS at the Ministry of Public Health said that the Ministry has launched the Community Parenting Support Group in an effort to tackle the increase of teenage pregnancy across Guyana.

“We thought that teenage pregnancy is rampant and the Ministry of Public health needs to respond. The most important intervention you can make is at a community level…change health outcomes, change behaviour, change culture… we want to expose our already pregnant teenage moms to education, information, and empowerment so that they are able to prevent a repeat pregnancy in their teenage years… We have support groups, we invite them, we make them feel a part of a group that meets and shares a sacred space with their health care provider,” Dr. Scott said.

The event was also attended by the Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, Dr. William Adu-Krow from the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), Ms. Silvie Fouet of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), dignitaries representing various organisations and several schools.

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