ONE out of four pregnancies recorded in Zimbabwe involves a juvenile, latest data shows, amid calls by experts for swift action to stem the rise in pregnancies among adolescents.

Stakeholders, who spoke to NewsDay yesterday, said the adolescent pregnancy rate which currently stands at 21% called for more measures to be taken to ensure the scourge is curbed.

MyAge Zimbabwe director Onward Chironda said there were gaps that needed to be attended to in order to reduce the rate of adolescent pregnancies.

Cases of young mothers dying, while giving birth have been on the rise triggering the need for swift action in Zimbabwe.

“It is a worrisome statistic, that means we are on an increase as a country and we have gaps in terms of comprehensive sexuality education which will help young people to make informed decisions as well as limited access to information and services among the sexually active age group.

“Restrictions on services continue to be a big issue against the backdrop of early sexual debut among adolescents,” he said.

Shamwari yeMwanasikana programmes co-ordinator Esnara Kativhu said they responded to a number of cases of teenage pregnancies.

“We basically do case management with this pillar and we have had a number of calls. Some of them are working clients, others from our referral pathways.

“I could say for 2023, on average, we would receive over 25 cases of teen pregnancy from Harare and Chitungwiza only.

“This has alarming because some of those girls had already dropped out of school. What we have observed as an organisation is that issues of teenage pregnancies are a wicked problem,” she said.

Kativhu added: “We try all by means to make sure that there are processes and mechanisms to curb these issues, but they always mutate one way or the other.”

She attributed the challenge to women and girls’ weak nature, where they are sometimes unable to shield themselves.

“We have issues with cultural practices, cultural norms, issues with sexual and reproductive health rights and comprehensive sexuality education. We also have issues of poverty.

“As an organisation, we just call on civil society organisations, the government, the public sector, and the community at large to always try all means to safeguard our children, to empower them so that they can make informed decisions.

“That they can see the consequences of the things that they do and also to empower the community on the new law that is there.”

She said women below the age of 18 were not supposed to be lured into sexual acts whether they consent or not.

Kativhu said there was need to protect the girl child.

Earlier this month, the government and its partners reiterated calls for action to address the scourge of adolescent pregnancies limiting the potential of girls and young women as revealed in findings of the national assessment on adolescent pregnancies report.

The assessment was conducted by the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/Aids Research Zimbabwe under the leadership of the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry with support of Unicef, Unesco and UNFPA.

Adolescent pregnancy rate in Zimbabwe is high with nearly 1 in 10 adolescents giving birth every year in the country.

About half of these pregnancies are unintended and a quarter of them result in illegal and unsafe abortions increasing the risk of childbirth complications and maternal mortality.

One in four maternal deaths in Zimbabwe involved adolescents or young women (representing 25% of maternal deaths in Zimbabwe).

A key finding of the National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe is that 21% of antenatal care bookings were among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years, translating to 358 458 pregnant adolescents from an estimated 1 706 946 bookings made at 1 560 healthcare facilities between 2019 and 2022.

Furthermore, the study showed that 1 532 maternal deaths were recorded over the same period, with around 25% of them being among adolescent and young women under 24 years. — NewsDay

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