The children






© 2005 UNICEF Jamaica; Noorani
A toddler looks out from the safety of a mother's lap at Emancipation Park in Kingston

Jamaica has been lagging behind the targets relevant to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 3, 4, 5 and 7[1]. Jamaican children face significant challenges in access to and quality of health care and proper early stimulation. Under-five mortality rates (31 per 1,000 live births[2], 2009) and infant mortality rates (26 per 1,000 live births[3], 2009) have remained high. Disabilities among children are an estimated 10 per cent[4]. A reported 25 per cent of adolescents aged 15-19 years are overweight or obese, while 37 per cent of boys and 11 per cent of girls aged 10-15 years consume alcohol[5].

 Immunization rates have declined from rates above 90 per cent in the mid-1990s to a range of 80-90 per cent in 2004, though the slippage might be accounted for by inaccurate updates of vital statistics. In 2002, stunting, wasting and severe malnutrition was affecting close to 6 per cent, 2.8 per cent, and 0.1 per cent, respectively, of children under 5. Only 45 per cent of lactating mothers breastfeed exclusively at six weeks, and only about one third (33.7 per cent) do so for three months. Less than 15 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months.


Jamaica is experiencing a generalized HIV epidemic, with an estimated prevalence of 1.7 per cent. However, evidence shows that there are much higher infection rates among key affected populations. A 2010 survey of sex workers found a 5 per cent prevalence rate among that population and a 2007 Ministry of Health (MoH) survey among 201 men who have sex with men, between 15-49 years, found that one of every three was HIV infected.

Among those surveyed, 34 per cent reported that they had 2 or more female partners in the last 12 months. This suggests that bisexuality has been a significant bridge for HIV infection among the general population.

Adolescent boys and girls are among the most at risk for infection due to a prevailing culture of multiple sex partnerships and inconsistent condom use. Adolescent girls aged 10-19 are almost three times more likely to become infected with HIV than boys of the same age, as a result of early sexual initiation, sexual relations with HIV-infected older men, forced sex and prevalent unsafe sexual practices. The 2008 National Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviours and Practices (KABP) survey reported that 37 per cent of sexually active respondents had sex in exchange for money or gifts in the past 12 months, and 43 per cent did not use a condom the last time they had sex. Pregnancies among girls 15-19 accounted for 18 per cent of live births in 2008. The MoH reports that over 33 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys ages 10-15 did not consent to their first sexual encounter.



[1]  National Report of Jamaica on MDGs for the UN ECOSOC, July 2009

[2]  SOWC 2011

[3]  Ibid 2011

[4]  ESSJ 2009, PIOJ

[5]  Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (2005)





Selected Child Health Indicators - Jamaica

Click on the PDF file below to view selected indicators for child and maternal health in Jamaica
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