BINGA District has recorded a high number of teenage pregnancies with more than 200 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years falling pregnant.
Teenagers reportedly make up about half of expectant mothers at Binga District Hospital where those who fall pregnant for the first time are referred from other health facilities dotted around the district.
Speaking at a district training workshop on social accountability for adolescent girls and young women, gender responsive sexual reproductive health services here, the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) community-based distributors (CBD) district supervisor Ms Barbara Nyathi said between January and September this year, after giving birth 209 girls aged between 15 and 19 years accessed family planning services from ZNFPC.
The ongoing workshop was organised by Basilwizi Trust in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe, Southern Africa HIV and Aids Information Dissemination Services (SAfAIDS) and Partnership for Social Accountability.
“Figures collected by five CBDs and three depot holders show that we had 14 new clients and 144 old clients who were given COC as well as six and 45 who were given POP between the ages of 15 and 19 years. We distributed 1 040 male condoms and 70 female condoms to the same age group. These are statistics done by family planning between January and September this year excluding those recorded at clinics and district hospital and other wards,” said Ms Nyathi.
She could not immediately clarify how many of the girls are below 18 years as she didn’t have the detailed statistics with her.
According to Zimbabwean laws, sexual intercourse with girls below the age of 16 is a criminal offence that can see offenders charged with having sex with a minor.
Ms Nyathi said while condom use was generally low because of lockdown among other reasons, few collected the female condom because of cultural beliefs where “women in Binga don’t have much say on sexual matters”.
A nurse stationed at Binga District Hospital Sr Innocent Ngwenya said teenage pregnancies were prevalent in Cyunga, Kariangwe, Lusulu and Siabuwa areas as most expecting young girls were from these areas which are largely fishing communities.
Lusulu is a cotton farming area and has a busy growth point which could be one of the drivers.
Sr Ngwenya said girls as young as 13 years have delivered at the hospital.
“These teenagers are still immature and not able to consent according to the Constitution. Their bodies are still weak and they can die or get paralysed at labour. These teenage pregnancies expose some of the gaps that need to be filled by access to education and information among girls and boys,” said Sr Ngwenya.
He said the Ministry of Health and Child Care had come up with a youth friendly corner concept at every health facility but its implementation was being hampered by shortage of health staff who are trained in safe reproductive health.
He also bemoaned lack of development partners to support implementation of health education programmes in the district.
Community leaders have attributed the high number of teenage pregnancies to prevalence of public events such as social soccer tournaments and distances to school and called for stiffer penalties on pedophiles.
Basilwizi Trust programmes manager Mrs Danisa Mudimba said: “There is confusion between children’s rights and being responsible. There is a need for all stakeholders to help educate the community about dangers and clarify these two.”
Chief Siachilaba who is also attending the training blamed the high rate of teenage pregnancies to the country’s Constitution which he said gives too much freedom to children who end up engaging in delinquent behaviour.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has said early sexual debut and sexual abuse of female adolescents also increases the girls’ risk to unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV and Aids and psycho-social challenges.
Early sexual engagement also increases the risk of girls suffering cervical cancer which is one of the leading killer diseases especially among women. — @ncubeleon