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Over 4 000 girls below 14 give birth

Source: Over 4 000 girls below 14 give birth | Sunday Mail

Emmanuel Kafe

MORE than 4 000 girls aged between 10 and 14 years fell pregnant and were booked to deliver babies at health institutions countrywide between 2019 and 2021, a newly released official survey has established.

According to the National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe report, 0,2 percent of maternity bookings in Zimbabwe over that period were for children under the age of 15.

The study, which was conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in conjunction with UNICEF and UNESCO, also revealed that a huge number of maternal deaths were recorded among young women over the same period.

“An estimated 1 706 946 ANC (antenatal care) bookings were made in 1 560 health care facilities captured in the DHIS (Demographic and Health Survey) platform across the study period (four years, January 2019 to December 2022).

“Of these 0,2 percent (4 070) were among the age groups 10-14 years; 21 percent (355 962) among 15-19 years; 28 percent (473 475) among the 20-24 years; 21 percent (357 328) among the 25-29 and 30 percent (516 111) above 30 years.

“2021 had the highest number of pregnant adolescent girls aged 10-14 years.

“21 percent of ANC booking from 2019-2022 were among adolescents aged 10-19 years,” reads the report in part.

A total of 1 532 maternal deaths were recorded and of these, 376 (25 percent) were among adolescents and young women under 24 years during the same period. The survey also found that an increasing number of pregnant adolescent girls were testing positive for HIV upon booking at antenatal clinics.

“Of the estimated 50 957 pregnant women newly testing HIV positive, 0,1 percent were among adolescents aged 10-14 years. About 0,2 percent of adolescents aged 10-14 years old tested HIV positive in 2021, compared to 0,04 percent in 2019; 0,1 percent in 2020; and 0,04 percent in 2022.

The report attributes the increasing incidences of pregnancy among adolescents to the closure of schools and the reported increase in domestic violence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study also found that 30 percent of adolescent girls were sexually active.

Approximately 31 percent (134) reported having had forced intercourse in their first sexual encounter.

Approximately 75 percent (315) of the first sexual encounter was with boyfriends, only 23 percent (97) with husbands, 1,5 percent (10) with strangers, 0,8 percent (6) with relatives, and 0,1 percent (2) with casual partners.

Mr Itai Rusike — executive director of the Community Working Group on Health, a local health lobby group — said: “Adolescent girls need to be well equipped with strategies that address sexual reproductive health rights by increasing coverage for adolescent sexual and reproductive health services in schools and strengthening their participation in health issues at all levels. ”