Here are the statistics about adolescent pregnancy.
In the developing countries, 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year.
Adolescent mothers are significantly more likely to suffer complications such as high blood pressure, severe infections and fetal problems.
A further 3.9 million adolescent girls undergo unsafe abortions annually around the world, putting their health at serious risks.
In Malaysia, adolescent births reached a peak of 18,000 annually in 2011 to 7754 in 2018. That’s about 21 adolescent births per day.
The majority of adolescent pregnancies were unplanned and about 50% may end up as abortions. Unfortunately, Malaysia does not have any data on abortions and in particular the number of unsafe adolescent abortions.
Baby dumping cases averages about a 100 annually for more than a decade which equates to approximately 1 case every 3 days. Majority of the babies were found dead.
A survey on Malaysian adolescent knowledge on reproductive health consistently showed respondents having barely adequate basic knowledge.
On the other hand, incidence of sexual activity among the young had risen dramatically from 2.3% for 13- 17 years old in 2014 to 7.3% in 2017.
The common features of adolescent pregnancy cases were unmarried status, low income families and school dropouts.
Strong evidence globally had shown that health plus contraception education reduce significantly the incidence of adolescent unintended pregnancies.
The UNESCO curriculum on comprehensive sexuality education is a global model of a curriculum that is effective. The important tenets of its core teachings are based on its cultural relevance, context appropriate, gender equality and human rights. The results of such teaching has clearly shown that it delays initiation of sexual activity, decrease risky sexual behaviour as well as adolescent unintended pregnancies.
Many countries including USA, United Kingdom and our neighbouring Thailand had implemented these teachings successfully.
Putrajaya had recently launched YouTube videos for the young in a bid to teach children about sexual safety and information posters with helpline in hotpots to prevent baby dumping. This is the start of an evidence based approach in tackling what had been plaquing our youths for decades and must truly be applauded.
No longer is the Government in denial as to what truly works and needs to be implemented.
There are still many more steps and strategies to be implemented such as health care professionals training, school based teachings, community engagements, legal amendments on adolescent access to services, parental education etc, each based on clear evidence of its effectiveness.
We must support our government efforts as these baby steps are being instituted towards a long road of recovering the lost years that befallen our youths and ensure that no youths are left behind.
Walk with them, be with them and offer our hands as they negotiate the tumultuous part of their lives to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Dr. John Teo is a obstetricians & gynaecologist based in Sabah
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.