KUCHING - The number of teenage pregnancies in Sarawak is the second highest in the country.
There were 3,401 reported cases in the state compared to the national total of 16,787 last year, according to Health Department statistics.
"Teenage pregnancy is one of my ministry's main concerns," said state Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah at the state assembly.
"Compared to mothers in older age groups, teenage mothers are at greater risk of having complications (from giving birth).
Teen mothers are also likely to drop out of school, have no or low qualifications and be unemployed or lowly paid," she said, adding that they might also suffer depression due to the social stigma attached to teen pregnancies.
The number of teenage pregnancies was significantly higher in rural areas compared to urban areas, she said, adding that almost half of all the girls involved were unmarried: in the agricultural town of Sarikei, 48.3 per cent of the pregnant teens were unmarried, while in remote Kapit, which is only accessible by boat, 44.8 per cent of the teens were single mothers.
A One-Stop Teenage Pregnancy Committee was set up at the end of last year to help address the issue.
The committee included representatives from the ministry, the Health Department, the Education Ministry, the National Registration Department and the Sarawak Family Planning Association.
"One key aim of the committee is to provide aid and support to pregnant teens and young mothers," Fatimah said.