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OPINION | Manala Makua: Teen pregnancies – society wants to help govt in battling this scourge

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South Africa witnessed a 60% enhance in its teenage being pregnant price amid the pandemic. Manala Makua examines what measures are being put in place to deal with the difficulty and what society ought to do. 

Motherhood by alternative may be an unbelievable and rewarding expertise in a girl’s life.

The identical just isn’t the case with teenage pregnancies or teenage motherhood.

Based on the World Well being Organisation, 21 million women aged 15–19 years turn out to be pregnant yearly globally. Roughly 12 million of them give beginning – making teenage being pregnant a world concern that wants pressing consideration.

Sadly, South Africa is residence to many such younger moms who need to be youngsters and never give beginning to them.

In 2019, almost 130,000 infants have been delivered to ladies aged 10 to 19 in public well being amenities in South Africa which additional elevated to an extra 136,386 infants in 2020. The nation has recorded an unacceptably excessive price of teenage pregnancies in simply the primary quarter of 2021, with greater than 36,000 infants delivered to ladies of the identical age group (already marking one-third of the annual common – 30.47%).

Multifaceted drawback

The staggering statistics exhibit that now greater than ever; we have to deal with two essential points – why are teenage pregnancies excessive in South Africa, and the way can we work in direction of lowering the quantity and saving the lives of our younger women?

In South Africa, teenage being pregnant is a multifaceted drawback with a number of socio-economic components contributing to the excessive numbers.

A few of these embrace – poverty, early marriage, gender-based violence (GBV), lack the company or autonomy over their our bodies, substance abuse and most significantly, insufficient sexual and reproductive well being and rights (SRHR) info coupled with misconceptions round contraceptives. Moreover, adolescents have a tendency to interact in dangerous sexual actions that put them in danger for undesirable pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), and HIV. Additional, the stigma round discussing intercourse, contraceptives, undesirable/unplanned pregnancies, and GBV solely provides to the already present lengthy record of ‘whys.’

READ | Opinion: Boitumelo Masipa – Failing to take care of our younger women might be our greatest remorse

The dangers related to teenage being pregnant have penalties beginning at childbirth and following each mom and youngster over the life span. It has severe well being penalties the place youngsters usually tend to be born pre-term, have decrease beginning weight and have greater neonatal mortality.

On the identical time, moms endure postpartum melancholy and are much less prone to provoke breastfeeding.

Typically maternal issues end in low survival charges of infants and drive many ladies to prematurely tackle an grownup function that they don’t seem to be emotionally or bodily ready for.

On the opposite aspect, with round 120 000 learners falling pregnant yearly, solely one-third of them return to high school after giving beginning— a major issue contributing to socio-economic drawback amongst youth and an limitless cycle of poverty. 

60% enhance in teenage pregnanices throughout pandemic

The panorama round teenage pregnancies in South Africa had solely seen a slight enchancment with the continued consciousness programmes and authorities interventions when the nation, together with the worldwide, was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic adopted by the lockdown, which reversed the progress made so far.

South Africa witnessed a 60% enhance in its teenage being pregnant price amid the pandemic, inflicting everlasting harm to the lives of many younger South African girls. It’s unlucky how the ‘whys of teenage being pregnant,’ particularly GBV exacerbated throughout the lockdown.

READ | Melanie Verwoerd: Teenage being pregnant and statutory rape – extra have to be achieved to place offenders in jail

The nation noticed a 37% spike in GBV complaints within the first week of complete lockdown. It may be deduced that college closures and containment measures led to elevated teen being pregnant, sexual exploitation, sexual violence, and compelled/early marriages in lots of components of the nation. 

Regardless of these challenges, the Nationwide Division of Well being (NDoH) is set to deal with the difficulty. It’s working carefully with the SRHR companions to advocate for consideration to adolescents and their sexual and reproductive well being and rights. We have now taken a number of initiatives to cut back teenage pregnancies within the nation.

Everybody should get on board 

Probably the most essential one is the introduction of Complete Sexuality Schooling (CSE), a curriculum-based strategy of educating and studying in regards to the cognitive, emotional, bodily, and social elements of sexuality. It’s vital because it empowers adolescents to establish and report sexual abuse, forestall bullying, cope with unfavorable peer stress, helps them study SRHR, HIV and remedy measures, and most significantly, the place to hunt assist in circumstances of rape, contraceptive want, and so forth. 

Additional, the well being division is prioritising the implementation of the Teenage Being pregnant Coverage (from January 2022) to permit feminine pregnant learners to proceed with their schooling, as do male learners who impregnate them. Moreover, the division has initiated Adolescent and Youth Well being Companies and Youth Zone coaching and is partaking SRHR companions throughout the nation to lift consciousness round teenage pregnancies so that each choice taken by a woman and a girl is by alternative and never compulsion. 

READ | Bathabile Dlamini: Teenage pregnancY – A posh drawback the place women usually are not simply statistics

Nonetheless, it’s vital to notice that it’s not solely the federal government’s accountability, however all of society must sort out this matter. We have to curb the scourge of stripling pregnancies if we wish to flip the tide and save our youngsters, particularly women.

We want a collaborative effort to combine our efforts with the companions and youth champions (particularly males) who might be on the forefront of stopping adolescent being pregnant by way of progressive grassroots-level initiatives.

Neighborhood sensitisation, CSE and guaranteeing women enrol and keep in colleges may cut back adolescent being pregnant charges. To save lots of our women’ lives, we have to mix robust management, administration, and perseverance to attain what’s achievable. 

– Dr Manala Makua is Chief Director of ladies’s, maternal and reproductive well being on the Nationwide Division of Well being 

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