The number of teen pregnancies in the country is reportedly to be on the rise with health experts calling for urgent attention.
According to statistics revealed in the latest National Adolescent Fertility Study, (NAFS)‘Technical Report 2016’ 1 in every 10 girls aged 15-19 in Zimbabwe falls pregnant every year, the highest fertility rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The study which presents the current status of adolescent pregnancy in Zimbabwe, explains that the drivers of teen pregnancies in the country are emanating from issues related to poverty, lack of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, educational attainment and early marriage. Adolescent pregnancy also results from coercion and or sexual violence, particularly by older men.
The study reveals that Mashonaland central has the highest figure of teen pregnancy at 28 percent, followed by both Manicaland and Matebeleland North at 25.4 and 23.6 respectively.
According to Munyaradzi Murwira, Executive director of Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, the data shows that adolescent pregnancy is a national problem.
“There is need to understand the factors contributing to adolescent pregnancy. Given the intensity of efforts to and commitment aimed at reducing adolescent pregnancy on one hand and the puzzling increase in the increase of in prevalence of adolescent pregnancy on the other,’ said Murwira.
Health and Child care Minister David Parirenyatwa agrees that rise in teen pregnancy needs urgent attention. He says teenage pregnancy severely curtails girls and young women’s opportunities and hinders their ability to reach their full potential.
” A young adolescent girl can be an asset for a country if she is not married off during her childhood, not forced to leave school or exposed to unplanned pregnancy.”
According to Parirenyatwa, earlier actions of on reducing adolescent fertility had targeted the girls as the problem and aimed at changing their behavior as the solution.
Such innervations failed to reduce adolescent pregnancy because they did not address the root causes of the problem, that is, the socio-economic, cultural norms and values, legal and other factors that drive adolescent pregnancy.
“Another shortcoming of these actions is that they failed to address the role of men and boys in perpetuating and preventing adolescent pregnancy, “said the health minister.
Adolescent pregnancy is a major health concern because of its association with higher morbidity and mortality for both the mother and child.
The NAFS study which was launched recently at St Alberts Mission in Centenary, Mashonaland Central paints the psycho-social, economic, development and health costs of adolescent pregnancy and offers recommendations for addressing adolescent pregnancy and leveraging demographic dividend in promoting soci-economic growth, teenage pregnancies in the country.
The MoHCC, Family Health Department in collaboration with the ZNFPC and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) commissioned the study with a view to better understand why adolescent fertility was increasing despite the government efforts to reduce it.