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Minister of Health, Clayton Burgin
Minister of Health, Clayton Burgin

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 12, IWN – Eight girls between the ages of 11 and 14 years old gave birth in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2012.

Minister of Health Clayton Burgin told Parliament on Monday that teenage pregnancy continues to be the major concern for his ministry even as the nation records a constant decrease in the number of babies dying before birth — perinatal mortality.

“The area that continues to worry my ministry is teenage pregnancy. The teenage pregnancy rate in 2012 remained high, standing at 17.9 per cent, with eight girls between 11 and 14 giving birth,” he told lawmakers.

“A coordinated effort is needed to tackle this problem. It will require the input of every sector of society to correct this problem,” he further said.

The age of consent in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 16 years and a person having sex with a girl under that age can be charged with one or more of several crimes.

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Burgin’s comments came as he lauded improvement in both perinatal and neonatal mortality rates.

He said the neonatal mortality rates continues to decline, standing at 50.4 per 1,000 in 2010, 11.5 in 2011, and 7.44 in 2012.

He said this is a result of the work of the ministry’s staff and the policies of the government to deliver healthcare to all citizens, including new-borns.

The stillbirth rate fell to from 20.3 in 2011 to 14.6 in 2012, Burgin further said.

He attributed the improvement to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which is supported by the World Paediatric Project and the Pan-American Health Organisation, and donation of medicine and supply from Chile and civic organisations in Canada.

“… I take this opportunity to salute the benefactors who have demonstrated that health is the business of everyone and not just the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment,” Burgin said.

In 2012, perinatal mortality rate stood at 22.05 per 1,000 total births the lowest lowest recorded since 2007.

In 2010, it was 33.8 and 31.9 in 2011.

“Mr. Speaker, when one considers that St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not possess the technological capabilities and sophistication as the more developed countries, to have such a steady decline of deaths in the perinatal period is indeed a remarkable feat,” Burgin said.

He, however, said there was an increase in the number of babies born with birth defect.

The Maternal and Child Health Committee discussing the pros and cons of folic acids for mothers as a matter of minimising congenital birth defects.

Only one maternal death was recording in 2012. Burgin said the woman was from a rural part of the country and visited the district clinic infrequently.

He encouraged pregnant women to visit their clinic early in their pregnancy.

“The abovementioned figures were in the normal international standards and even more favourable that some of our Caribbean neighbours and also throughout the world.

“I am pleased to say that despite our challenges in 2012, the maternal and child health services at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and the community health service registered a good year in 2012,” the health minister said.