11 Jul 2013

PNG urged to focus more on adolescent pregnancy

4:39 pm on 11 July 2013

The United Nations Population Fund says the Papua New Guinea government has to put more focus on adolescent pregnancy.

Today, July 11, is World Population day, and the UNFPA, says it wants a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

A spokesperson for the UNFPA, Gilbert Hiawalyer, says at current rates the PNG population is doubling every 25 years, with 13 percent of babies born to women under the age of 19.

He told Don Wiseman the welfare of pregnant adolescents is often ignored and the onus is on the government to lead a change.

GILBERT HIAWALYER: Currently, there are many challenges the government is facing. The government set up this youth commission, by law they have set it up. But the youth commission needs to be resourced and ensure that funding is available and the programmes are setting up youth centres in other areas where young people can get help and also in areas they live. And also we have the health department who provide services, as well, but many of the health service centres, particularly in the health centres or hospitals, they're not youth friendly. For example, a young woman or a young guy might want to go to family planning and the first question ask 'Are you married? And i f you're not married, sorry, we can't provide you service'. And many young people shy away and don't go for the sexual issues they want to address. Many times you see girls with pregnancies. She has no choice but she has go to attend to a clinic. But when you go to family planning or other things it's always difficult. They're normally not welcome or many times they don't feel good to go because it's not friendly.

DON WISEMAN: So with the adolescents, do you want them not to get pregnant or to be informed, or both?

GH: No, I think the important thing is to be informed and make a right choice. We, the UNFPA, we work with our partners here, and what we like to do is uphold the rights of young people, especially girls and marginalised groups, to grow up healthy and safely receive a fair share of social investment. That's why we want the government to ensure that it's done. And we want to ensure the young people's leadership and participation in decision-making that affects them, including the societies, and give young people skills to make healthy choices and fulfil their dreams. It's important because once you provide information to young people then they'll make a better choice. With peer pressure, these things do happen. And the other challenge we also face is that many of our parents do not really talk about those issues to their children. And many times the young people go out and trial and error... We also have HIV issues here, as well. And condoms we encourage them to use to both protect unwanted pregnancy and also prevent HIV, as well as STI.

DW: You're planning a march to raise awareness.

GILBERT HIAWALYER: What we are planning for the World Population Day is to have a walk to the university from the department of the minister of planning. And we hope the minister for planning and we hope the minister for health and the minister for community development, and other parliamentarians will participate. And we'll include students from university and other partners to make awareness about the issue. This year's World Population Day theme is adolescent pregnancy, to address the issue of young people's pregnancy and how it should be avoided and all those issues where should have been taken care of, information provided to them.