The Bahamas leads region with adolescent rights, health

Guyana Chronicle
July 6, 2000

THE Commonwealth of the Bahamas has become the first country in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean region to set up a separate Adolescent Health Division within the Ministry of Health and to establish a youth-driven and dedicated Adolescent Health Centre within the primary health care (PHC) system.

The Adolescent Health Centre is a community based public health care system that provides clinical, medical, outreach and education services to young persons in a holistic and multi-disciplinary (health and social sector) manner within a team approach.

In a press release, UNFPA Caribbean Representative Oyebade Ajayi commended the bold initiative of the Government in addressing an important element of youth development in line with the ICPD Programme of Action and the obligations that each Caribbean country had assumed in this regard.

Mr Ajayi stressed that in a region with 60 per cent of the population under 25 years old and one that was experiencing high teenage fertility, escalating incidence of HIV/AIDS and the consequences of other risky behaviour among its youth, The Bahamas was making a clear commitment to its own future by giving a heightened attention to youth health and development matters.

Continuing, Mr Ajayi, stated that the current UNFPA Caribbean regional programme was designed to provide an operational framework for adolescent sexual and reproductive health programmes within the PHC system by supporting pilot multi-disciplinary and beneficiary driven adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Jamaica, Suriname and Guyana. He added that the public sector based and funded Adolescent Health Care system in the Bahamas would be a great encouragement to the other Caribbean countries.

Ajayi praised the continuing advocacy efforts of the UNFPA Caribbean Youth ambassadors in promoting their Regional Plan of Action on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, which has gained political approval at the CARICOM level.

Mr Ajayi informed that The Bahamas was willing to share its experience on adolescent health services with sister Caribbean countries.

In a related release from the UNFPA Caribbean office, it has been announced that UNFPA and The Bahamas will co-host the inaugural meeting of the Caribbean Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development in Nassau in November 2000. The Caribbean forum will be a network of national parliamentary committees or groups of parliamentarians with interest in and concern for population and development issues.

At The Bahamas meeting, several issues arising out of the Plan of Action of the UNFPA sponsored Caribbean Youth Summit (Barbados, 1998) would be on the agenda for discussions, subsequent national and region-wide advocacy and action by Caribbean Parliamentarians.

Such issues would include consideration of additional government actions, as has been recommended by Caribbean young persons in Barbados in 1998, to provide for the continuing education and other training for adolescent mothers, the protection of young persons against sexual abuse and violence and for their access to counselling, proper information and the full range of services as contained in the ICPD programme of action.

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