Dominican Republic: Teenage pregnancy and mother deaths

Santo Domingo, September (SEMlac Special). – United Nations reports indicate that the Dominican Republic exhibits one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the region.

The latest case, which involves a 10-year-old girl in the southern city of San Cristóbal , has been considered as a true drama by Health Minister Freddy Hidalgo. Rumor has it that the girl got pregnant after rape.

Miguel A. Geraldino, director of the Juan P. Pina Hospital in San Cristóbal , where she is under treatment, announced that she is being given special care.

“The number of pregnant teenagers is so high in this area (around 25 percent of the total) that we have established a specialized unit for them,” he added.


Shocking data

Geraldino told local reporters that they had seen 1,811 young girls and teenagers in the April-June period alone. “Over 70 percent of them were under 14,” he stressed.

“They are often affected by high blood pressure and low amniotic fluid levels,” he recalled.

"Teenage pregnancy is currently posing a major problem in Latin America,” said Elena Zúñiga, representative of the United Nations Population Fund in El Salvador .

“The region has the second highest rate in the world (70 deliveries every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19). And 30 percent of women get pregnant before they turn 20,” she emphasized.

Hidalgo announced that additional funds will be allocated next year to teenage pregnancy prevention campaigns.

“Adolescents make up 22 percent of our population and 20 percent of them have become mothers or have got pregnant,” he commented.

According to UN officials, this problem is closely associated with poverty, school dropout, and low educational levels.

Víctor Calderón, director of the Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia Maternity Hospital in Santo Domingo , believes that this is a family, social and public-health problem.

“We have had around 4,000 deliveries by young girls so far this year,” he remarked.

“These cases are now under review by district attorneys in charge of minors,” he stressed.

“The number of cesarean sections in this population group is extremely high,” he noted.

“The Ministry of Health will soon start implementing a plan to provide further information on sexuality and pregnancy at school,” he anticipated.

Local experts have highlighted the need to develop new educational actions and programs to address this situation.

As abortion has not been legalized in the country, raped girls and women are often forced to become mothers.

Susi Pola, manager of a family welfare project on sexual and reproductive rights, indicated that the idea of decriminalizing abortion under certain conditions is supported by 76 percent of the Dominican population.



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