Nyakuchena Youth Centre, Reduces Child Marriages In Mudzi

JOURNEY of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Having been established in 2005, Nyakuchena Youth Centre has become a source of refuge and escape from the evil world by most young people, especially adolescent boys and girls in Mudzi whose daily lives are constantly threatened by their surroundings.

By Michael Gwarisa recently In Mudzi

Just like any other broader community, Mudzi is susceptible to numerous health woes which include Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), high HIV infections and sex work. Without mechanisms in place to help fight these challenges, the future of most young people in the area could sink into total oblivion.

With the coming  in of illegal gold panning in the area and the erection of gold mills, the future of the girl child is at risk of being destroyed by prurient hungry marauding sex pests and pedophiles who according villagers, have been contributing to new cases of teenage and early unintended pregnancies.

In an Interview with HealthTimes in Mudzi, Nyakuchena Youth Centre, ZNFPC Youth Facilitator, Mrs Joyce Chipfupi said early teenage pregnancies and early marriages were on the decline despite the existing threat of gold panners in the area who could take advantage of the economic situation to exploit young innocent girls.

In terms of Challenges faced by Youths, we as Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) aim to reduce Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs) and I can say we are witnessing a decline in teenage pregnancies.

“In 2016 we recorded 13 teenage pregnancies, 2017 we recorded eight pregnancies and in 2018 we recorded eight and this year in 2019, we recorded six. In terms of early child marriages, in 2016, we recorded 15, in 2017 we recorded 10, in 2018 we recorded nine in 2019 we recorded six,” said Mrs Chipfupi.

She however said school dropouts have since increased especially in 2019 mainly due to non payment of fees at the back of biting economic hardships.

“In terms of school dropouts, in 2016, we recorded two  probably it is because the economy was not that bad back then. In 2017 and 2018 we have not recorded any school dropouts. But this year in 2019, we have nine children who have dropped out of school due to non payment of fees.   I think it is manly to do with  the economy.

“In terms of drug abuse, we recorded 22 in 2016 and we recorded 16 in 2017, 2018 we recorded 10 and in 2019, we recorded five. This means drug abuse is declining. Child abuse, we recorded three in 2016, we recorded three, in 2017 we recorded two, in 2018 and 2019 we did not get any cases.”

ZNFPC Provincial Manager for Mashonaland East, Mr Peter Machimbirike said Mash East province has nine districts and out of the nine districts with the Sexual and Reproductive Health program for young people,  Mudzi district has been identified as a high burden district in terms of early marriages and unintended pregnancies which need urgent attention.

“The high burden districts are five where the indicators are around a lot of negative issues like child marriages, HIV and the contraceptive prevalence rate which is very low. For us, Mudzi district is one of the district where we are looking at a lot of early marriages that is why we targeted it for the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) program.

“In the ASRH we have two youth centres. We have one at Masarakufa and then Nyakuchena which is one district with a lot of early marriages because it is bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique and it’s in region five, so in term of economic activities, it’s a little bit low.”

He however added that there has been a serious drop in terms of early marriages in Mudzi since 2016 ranging from thirteen in 2016, to the current six.

“We don’t have stats for 2019 as yet. In terms of the ASRH program, I think it’s working very well. It is working because we have a lot of partners who have been coming on board. There is CAMFED, ZICHIRE, the National Aids Council (NAC) and others. Together we have been working hard in a coordinated manner to make sure that we reduce the burden that young people are facing in the area,” Machimbirike said.

“The key issues in the two youth centres is to provide sexual and reproductive health information to the youths. On top of providing the sexual reproductive health information, we also provide the clinical services. Here at Nyakuchena, the other clinics are not close by so this is one of the most important components because most of the people who are coming from as far as Makawa are coming here for the family planning and reproductive health services,” said Mr Machimbirike.

Meanwhile, Councillor Ward 13, Nyakuchena in Mudzi, Cllr Walter Nyamukondiwa applauded the centre for contributing heavily to the decline in teenage pregnancies.

“This facility is helping us a lot in reducing teenage pregnancies. Before this centre was established, we would get at least 10 girls falling pregnant and dropping out of school every year but that has since changed.

“We attribute that to the counselling sessions they offer here at the youth centre. We however see that we still have a high prevalence in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) due to increased gold mining activities, young girls are being lured by the greenback and they end up getting infected,” said Cllr.

He added that they at times move around schools educating pupils on the dangers of falling pregnant early together with the staff at the youth centre.

“We however applaud the fact that teenage pregnancies are low and we attribute the success to this facility which was set up by the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC). Previously the burden was huge, there was no access to condoms and other forms of contraception and young people would impregnate each other unwillingly.”

Nyakuchena Youth Centre has Six Staff members which include a youth health advisor, Youth Health Facilitator, one grounds man, two guards, eight peer educators and eight committee members. The centre is 260 away from Harare and covers 36 Villages.

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