THE United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has embarked on a campaign to reduce cases of Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs) in Zimbabwe and other sub-Saharan countries, a move that is set to empower adolescent girls and young people to make informed decisions about their Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH).
By Michael Gwarisa in Mazowe
Through a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) and Save The Children, UNESCO has already kick-started various media engagements initiatives at a regional level which will improve reportage and dissemination of EUPs related issues and other SRHR issues affecting young girls and adolescents.
Speaking at a Media Capacity Building Training in Mazowe, UNESCO National Associate Project Officer – HIV and Health Education, Mr Masimba Nyamucheta said Zimbabwe was among some of the high burden countries when it comes to cases of unintended pregnancies and early child bearing cases.
You find that Zimbabwe currently has an increased rate in terms uptake of modern contraceptives. However, there is a worrisome trend in terms of a high adolescents birth rate and EUPs.
“As of 2015, Zimbabwe had 21.6% of young women aged 15-19 year giving birth and 37.6% of young women aged 15-19 having unintended pregnancies,” said Mr Nyamucheta.
He added that adolescent fertility rate for the same period for women aged 15-19 years the rate was was 120 births per 1,000 (early sexual debut vis a vis high unmet need for contraception).
“Adolescent pregnancy varies widely according to wealth, geographic location and education. It is more than twice higher among girls with primary education than among those who attended secondary school.
“Teenage Pregnancy has dropped in Urban Areas but not in Rural Areas. Proportion of women aged 15-19 currently married using modern contraceptives increased. More Young Girls Use Modern Contraception and the Unmet Need has Decreased Significantly. Unmet need for contraception among young girls decreased by 27% between 2010 and 2015 compared to general population where the Unmet need is 10%.”
Mr Nyamucheta also noted that poverty was a key driver to both EUPs and early marriages and resulted in most young girls engaging in intergenerational sexual relations which expose them to high risks of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
“Drivers are usually interlinked and often related.For example, rural residence are associated with poverty, poor education status, child marriage and inaccessibility to services. EPUs are Higher in rural areas, among poor with low levels of education.
“Transactional and intergenerational sexual relationships are common, related to both poverty/survival and the need to obtain material goods that are unaffordable. This places girls at high risk for unprotected sex and hence pregnancy.”
Meanwhile, two-thirds of adolescent mothers in East Africa, and 32% in Southern Africa are already married by the age of 16 years (UNESCO, 2014) and in cases where a girl falls pregnant before getting married, parents often force the girls to get married. Some girls, due to poverty, also get married early to get support from the husband.
“Sexual coercion, sexual assault and child abuse contribute to EUP in the region, especially associated with older men abusing young girls either in a relationship or guardians/uncles sexually abusing girls at home.
“Walking long distances to school also expose young girls to sexual abuse and rape. Alcohol and drug abuse reported to contribute to rape and abuse.”