EVEN though all indicators in Zimbabwe’s national family planning program have done well over the years, teenage pregnancies, early child marriages, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and new HIV infections have been on an upward trend in young people due to lack of access to contraceptives and other preventive methods.
By Michael Gwarisa
Currently, the Zimbabwe Public Health Act does not permit young adolescents to access or purchase contraceptives, medications and other health services in the absence of an adult thus making it difficult for young people below the age of 18 to access contraceptives.
In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of the belated World Contraception Day celebrations in Harare, ZNFPC Director Technical Services, Mr Peter Machimbirike said their focus as an organization was to ensure every deserving person gets access to contraceptives regardless of background or age.
Our theme for World Contraception Day this year is creating awareness for contraception amongst women and men with a focus on young people. As ZNFPC, our focus is to make sure that young people also get access to contraceptives and family planning services. For us, they are the people who are the elephant in the room for example when you look at all other indicators, the family planning program has done so well in terms of the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) but it has done a little bit badly in terms of the teenage pregnancies and early child marriages, so this is the elephant in the room.
“As we talk about contraception day to day, we need to think about that and how we can assist our young girls to make sure that we assist in increasing our contraceptive prevalence rate among young people and how we can make sure that young people have got access to services,” said Mr Machimbirike.
In 2019 when the world commemorated the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD25) in Kenya, Zimbabwe adolescent birth rate was at 110% up from the 99% that was recorded in 1994 when the inaugural ICPD conference was held in Egypt.
Dr Moses Macheka, the Medical Doctor at ZNFPC clinic said there was still an unmet need in young people in terms of pregnancies and new HIV infections.
“According to the trends, we have seen that the incidences of HIV are high in adolescent girls and young women and also the need for family planning is higher. You might seen the debate that is going on that the unmarried young women are not supposed to access contraception or family planning services which is actually not true. We are trying to bridge that gap and make sure that all young women get access to contraceptive services,” said Dr Macheka.
He added that they were trying to ensure that every woman that is in need of contraception is covered and this is being done through government efforts, through ZNFPC and through the Ministry of Health clinics and they have partners like Population Services International (PSI), Population Services Zimbabwe (PSZ), FHi-360 and these are doing outreaches in the mots remote areas of the country.
Meanwhile, the ZNFPC Brand Ambassador, Mrs Adiona Chidzonga said, “…going into the future, collaboration is the way to go if we are to effectively communicate the family planning and contraception message out there.
“Celebrating World Contraception Day is such an important thing. My message to everyone is don’t give the responsibility of family planning and contraction to just us as the ZNFPC, play a part and access Family planning services at any family planning clinics across the country.”