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Pill shortage triggers rise in teenage pregnancies

From BBC - January 9, 2018

In downtown Barquisimeto, Margaret Khawan's pharmacy is looking a bit empty these days.

What products she does have she has spaced out along the shelves to make them look a bit fuller.

Ms Khawan has not had any deliveries of contraceptive pills for a year.

Every day people come looking for them and every day she has to turn them away. People are having to adapt.

"It used to be just men buying condoms but women are buying them too now because there's nothing else," she says. "The price of condoms has gone up 200%."

Unplanned pregnancies

Across town, Darnellys Rodrguez is living the consequences of these shortages.

She had her first baby when she was 15 years old. Then she had a second baby, and hoped that would be it, but then she got pregnant with her third.

"My first reaction was to cry," she says. "Getting contraceptive pills is really hard. There's nothing and when you can get hold of them, the cost is beyond my reach."

Financially it is a struggle. She lives with her children and partner in a corrugated iron shack in a poor neighbourhood of Barquisimeto.

Now she is pregnant, she says her older boys have to go without clothes and shoes so she can pay for some of her medical tests.

"I am making plans to get sterilised," she says. "The idea of having another baby is too much."

Teenage mothers

According to the United Nations Population Fund, around one in four babies in Venezuela is born to a teenager. The country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Latin America.

"It's a situation that's got worse in the last year," says Delia Mondragn, the vice-president of the Association of Family Planning in Lara state, where Barquisimeto is located.

"It's especially hard for young people. A box of contraceptives could cost as much as what their parents earn [in a month], or even double that."

Every weekday, her waiting room is full of women coming for advice or medical help.

One of the other big concerns is malnutrition. Recent research suggests that three-quarters of Venezuelans lost weight in the past year, an average of 9kg (20lb).

Watch:

Supply shortages

Fear of unwanted pregnancy

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