UNFPA Urges Zim To Scale Up Fight Against Teen Pregnancies

VISITING United Nations Population Fund East and Southern Africa (UNFPA-ESARO) regional Director, Dr Julitta Onabanjo has applauded Zimbabwe’s health institutions for successfully integrating sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services a move she says would go a long in way in responding to the unfinished business regarding access to quality health services.

By Michael Gwarisa

Dr Obananjo came into the country last week for the 6th edition of the Africaan Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) summit and she also took time to tour health facilities in Bulawayo and Matebelalnd province.  Speaking to Journalist after the tour of the Tariro Clinic and Youth Centre, Dr Onabanjo said even though Zimbabwe had made progress in terms of integrating SHR services with health services, more needed to be done to reduce the growing scourge of teenage pregnancies.

The issue of teen pregnancies is not only an issue to UNFPA but to all of us as Africans. I think what we are seeing is that really in this day in age where there is access to information where young people can actually make choices of when to start having children, we know particularly for young girls, if she has an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, it takes her back a lot in terms of her ability to contribute and in terms of her personal growth.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo tours the Tariro Clinic and Youth Centre In Hopley Harare
Dr Julitta Onabanjo tours the Tariro Clinic and Youth Centre In Hopley Harare

“It really is a challenge and we always say one teen pregnancy that is unplanned and unwanted is just simply one too many. So we really have to do more to ensure that young people have the information and have the ability to access the services that can ensure that they can make the right choices as to when they can have a baby,” said Dr Onabanjo.

She added that teen pregnancies were also big a contributor to the high maternal deaths rate in the country and other parts of the region.

“I have looked around, this community (Hopely) is a brilliant community and indeed it is a community of hope but when I see how many young girls are here with little babies, you can tell that the prevalence of teen pregnancies is far too high.

“These young girls should be in school, they should be waiting to be able to have a real relationships. We can’t have children having children, not only is it a risk in terms of the outcome of the pregnancy but also the deaths. A lot of the maternal deaths that we see are amongst young girls and this we can’t accept. We really all have to do much better to talk about the crisis that we face and to begin to look at how we can actually collectively work on this.”

Dr Onabanjo shares a lighter moment with youths at the Tariro youth centre
Dr Onabanjo shares a lighter moment with youths at the Tariro youth centre

According to the 2019 State of the World Population Report (SWOP19), Zimbabwe still has a high prevalence of teen pregnancies and prevalence varies widely according to wealth, geographical location and education. The report says the fertility rate remains high among young girls, aged between 15 and 19 years, with nearly 1 in 10 adolescent girls giving birth every year while many die or are injured during childbirth.

Meanwhile, Dr Onabanjo applauded Zimbabwe for successfully integrating SRH with other health services and said bringing services under one roof exhibited Zimbabwe’s commitment to improving the livelihoods and access to critical health services for Zimbabwean citizens.

“Zimbabwe has done well in terms of progress that we see in delivering sexual and reproductive health and integrated service. I had an opportunity to visit the United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH), a tertiary hospital which is really trying to bring various aspects of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) together.

“In a way I think it’s doing a good job though it still got a lot of things that it can do better. But indeed it’s looking very much at a people centred approach. That is really good, I think for an individual, the ability to be able to go into a facility and to be able to have all her needs addressed, that’s really good progress,” said Dr Onabanjo.

She added that Zimbabwe has great potential and a lot more needed to be done to improve access to health and SRH services across all populations.

“A lot more needs to be done and I think this is where the UNFPA as a partner with government comes in. What is good in hospitals like that is you have not only the district system but communities and indeed the national all working together collectively. I think this is a good thing Zimbabwe has in that it sees health as a multispectoral approach and that it’s fundamental to development.”



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