Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah

KUCHING: Sarawak is prepared to face the anticipated baby boom early next year following the movement control order (MCO), said Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.

“This is a government that cares. Whether there is going to be a baby boom or not, Sarawak is big enough to accommodate the newborns and we welcome them,” she said here yesterday.

Baby boomer is a term used to describe a person who was born between 1946 and 1964, following post World War II. During the period, ‘baby boom’ or increased birth rates made the newborns became a large portion of the population.

They benefited from a time of increasing affluence and higher levels of income than their parents, and a surge in consumerism, enjoying more money to spend on food, clothes, and holidays.

National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) Health Unit head, Dr Hamizah Mohd Hassan, recently said the MCO could boost the country’s birth rate by early next year as the majority of married couples have been confined to their homes.

Dr Hamizah, who was interviewed on RTM TV programme recently, said her extrapolation was based on an unusual number of births reported in Maine and New Hampshire in the United States in 1998 after the two states were locked down for a long period due to bad snowstorms.

Fatimah, in concurring with Dr Hamizah’s opinion, said such birth rates were quite likely to happen as couples had the “time and opportunity” during the movement control order (MCO) period during which they also encountered difficulties in getting contraceptives.

On the other hand, she said couples would also need to consider issues such as future financial implication, child care and education.

According to Fatimah, the state government had been keeping a close watch on the number of babies born in Sarawak since last year, and had introduced a scheme for babies born from 2019 to receive RM1,000 under the Endowment Fund Sarawak (EFS).

“This year the state government introduced ‘Bantuan Ibu Bersalin’ (BIB) ― assistance for mothers ― amounting to RM450, to ease some of their burden, especially those who have no income during their confinement period,” she said.

“The monthly monitoring of births is ongoing to ensure the smooth implementation of EFS and BIB so that the targeted group can be helped.”

Fatimah said as of April 6, her ministry had received a total of 4,597 BIB applications (65 percent) while 6,502 babies (92 percent) had registered for EFS as of March 31.