MIRI: Very young girls at the average of age 13 in Sarawak are already being exposed to the risks of getting pregnant, according to studies by the state health authorities.
Sarawak Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah wants comprehensive efforts to be undertaken by the relevant government departments and agencies, and also the private non-governmental organisations to deal with this growing phenomenon of teenage-pregnancies
which is fast spreading in Sarawak.
Speaking at the launch of the “I Am In Control” programme for teenagers in Bintulu town, she said teenage-pregnancy was becoming a major worry in the state today.
“The high-risk age for becoming pregnant is on the average of 13 years old, studies by the health authorities in Sarawak have shown.
“Lack of knowledge about sexuality, peer pressure, family problems, all these contribute to the rising cases of teenagers getting pregnant before marriage.
“This phenomenon needs to be tackled effectively because such unwanted teen pregnancies are giving rise to more cases of suicide, depression, family problems, health problems and also financial problems affecting the young mothers and their babies,” she said when launching the programme in Bintulu for students of several schools.
The ministry’s “I Am In Control” programme is meant for teenage students, especially those 16 years old, to educate them about the risks of unwanted pregnancies and about pre-marital sex.
Fatimah said that the ministry had also set up a committee to handle issues relating to teenage pregnancies.
This committee, made up of representatives of various government and non-governmental organisations, wants to enhance cooperation and linkages to help teenagers.
This includes giving educational programmes throughout the state to help create awareness among these teenagers on the risks of premarital sex, to help those teenage girls who are already pregnant, to give them counselling, to give them shelter, to provide pre-natal and post-natal health and medical care and to give those troubled teens or teenage mothers physical, psychological and morale support.
The committee was also concerned about the future of those girls who became mothers at a very young age because they would face a lot of mental, emotional, physical and also financial issues when having to raise a child at such a tender age, said Fatimah.
“The best advice is still to abstain from sex before marriage. In the year 2011, there were 3,698 cases of teenage pregnancies in the state, 3,866 in 2012, 4,078 in 2013 and 3,396 in 2014.
“Those are high figures of teenage pregnancies recorded annually,” she stressed.
According to the latest statistics, the majority of teenagers who got pregnant are from age 15 to 19, but there are also several hundred cases of those age between 10 and 14 who also got pregnant.
The “I Am In Control” programme will be conducted statewide and it is being held in stages in all the divisions in this vast state.