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Georgetown, Guyana – (April 10, 2017) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, today, encouraged teenage boys and girls and teenage parents to seek out the sexual health, reproductive and other services offered at the Agricola Health Centre Community Parenting Support Group, at the launch of the clinic at the Agricola Health Centre, East Bank Demerara.

The First Lady was invited to the launch because of her advocacy for education and support services for youth, especially women and girls. At the opening ceremony, she said, “I do not think we can overemphasise how important maternal child health is, especially for our teen mothers and the support that we give them.”

The First Lady spoke about the importance of health and nutrition during pregnancy and encouraged the teenagers to capitalise on the opportunity to continue their education, both during and after their pregnancies as an educated mother will better be able to meet her child’s needs.

“The second thing that I discovered, a few days ago, was the importance of early childhood development and the provision of a nurturing environment for better adults. These are scientific studies – the British Medical Association launched a series, The Lancet Series … [which] have proven that if your baby has a nurturing environment from birth to three years, as an adult, that child will be 25 times more active mentally and more productive than a child who is subject to want, who is not properly fed, who is abused and beaten,” the First Lady said.

She then urged the teenagers, who have access to the Centre, to capitalise on the opportunity to seek sound medical advice, care and counselling about sex and sexuality, which will inform them about a wide range of topics in this regard, and preclude them from engaging in risky sexual behaviours.

Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton, Maternal Child Health Officer, Ministry of Public Health delivering remarks

Dr. Travis Freeman, resident doctor at the Sophia Health Centre Teenage Pregnancy Support Group, echoed this view. He said that the initiative, which was first launched several years ago to address the high incidences of teenage pregnancy, was revised and relaunched nationally in October 2017 at the Sophia Health Centre. The programme, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Health, in collaboration with the Ministries of Social Protection and Education, now aims to provide more comprehensive care aimed at ensuring that young persons have access to health services. He too urged teenagers to access the services to become “educated, to learn more about your body, to learn more about your sexuality that is what this initiative is about… we want to empower our young people, we want to empower our young ladies.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Jenelle Sweatnam, School Health Nutrition HIV/AIDS Coordinator at the Ministry of Education said the Ministry strongly supports reintegrating teen mothers into the school system. The Ministry provides new-born care packages for teenage mothers who are registered at the health centres to take with them to hospital.

“We realise that a teenage [mother]is in a very vulnerable position. Sometimes they don’t have the support that they need to provide… so we try to do it… and as well we would try to reintegrate [them] back into the school system so that … they can lead productive and good quality lives,” she said.

Also in attendance at the opening ceremony were Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton, Maternal Child Health Officer, Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Alexey Rodriguez, Dr. Merlin Persaud, who is resident doctor at the Centre, Nurse/Midwife Ms. Cordellia Gomes and other nurses attached to the Centre. The Centre is managed by two doctors, five nurses and a clinic attendant and serves approximately 11,000 persons within the borders of Meadwobank and Providence, East Bank Demerara.

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