RECURRING COVID-19 lockdown measures and a prolonged period outside learning institutions has resulted in increased Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs) in young adolescent girls, leading to a record spike in unsafe abortions amongst the 12- to 24-year-old age groups in Guruve, Mashonaland Central.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Guruve
In Zimbabwe, abortion or termination of pregnancy is only permissible if the pregnancy poses a risk or threat to the life and health of the mother and child and also if the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest. However, Zimbabwe still has one of the highest annual unsafe abortion prevalence, with latest figures showing that as much as 80,000 unsafe abortions take place in Zimbabwe every year.
According to community Champions who work as volunteer Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocates under the Women’s Action Group (WAG) in Guruve, the lockdown also gave birth to unscrupulous backyard traditional abortion clinics in Guruve as they saw an opportunity from the rising Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs) in girls of school going age.
In an interview with HealthTimes in Guruve on the sidelines of a road show to raise awareness on Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention as well as Termination of Pregnancy Act, Mrs Nyamadzawo Mushonga a WAG Champion from Ward 6 in Guruve said they more than 10 young adolescent girls terminated pregnancies using unsafe means during the just ended lockdown period and unfortunately some lost their lives or developed infections in their reproductive organs as result.
Some school going young adolescent girls could not return to school after the lockdown period as a result of pregnancies. We witnessed an unprecedented increase in pregnancies in some underage girls. Some young girls even died trying to terminate pregnancies during the lockdown period.
“Even though I don’t have the figures off hand of those who terminated pregnancies during the lockdown period, I can tell you for a fact that they exceed 10 and all these were recorded during this just ended Lockdown period. Some of these were Grade 7, primary school going children and unfortunately some of those died,” said Mrs Mushonga.
Ms Lianda Tembo, Ward 5 Champion said they had to intervene and take up the responsibility to educate communities on the dangers of unsafe abortions after seeing the sharp rise in cases of girls who were developing complications after they getting or attempting to terminate pregnancies using traditional herbs, plants and or overdose of medications.
“After realizing that there were challenges during the COVID-19 period relating to pregnancies in young girls and also after realizing that most girls who were falling pregnant were resorting to unsafe abortions, we went into the communities and sensitized them around termination of pregnancy and on how the girls could access services in safe health institutions.
“We are happy now that after our interventions, we are now seeing a reduction in girls seeking abortions from old ladies who use unorthodox means and those who fall pregnant as a result of rape, incest or any of those reasons where abortion is allowed according to Zimbabwean laws, are now being seeking services from the right places,” said Ms Tembo.
Speaking during a meeting in Guruve where various WAG stakeholders namely the Victim Friendly Unit, Musasa Project and Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and others, Sister Winnet Tahwiramitse, a health worker at Guruve Centre Clinic said, “…we are getting admissions in the maternity wards from girls as young as 13, 14 or 15.
These are underage cases which are getting pregnant now. As the ministry of health, we are giving health education to the community to stop child marriages and to seek early treatment if they have contracted a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) because some are shy to come forward and say I have an STI.
“The problem we have noticed in these age groups is that they are reporting late, some even come during labor and wouldn’t have registered. For unbooked cases, we invite them then we test for HIV and Syphilis, If positive, we give them Antiretroviral treatment. If she is at risk of contracting HIV, we give Post Exposure Prophylaxes then we test after one month.”
Meanwhile, the Women’s Action Group is working in partnership with UNICEF to raise awareness on GBV, TOP Act as it relates to issues of Sexual Gender Based Violence (GBV). WAG Executive Director, Mrs Ednah Masiyiwa said there was still need to educate communities on the Termination of Pregnancy Act.