LINDA NYONDO, Lusaka
MUCHINGA Province is among regions where teen pregnancies and child marriages have become a growing problem, prompting President Lungu to order provincial minister Malozo Sichone to join forces with Minister of Gender Victoria Kalima to curb the vice.
In an interview, Mr Sichone said the President issued the directive during a meeting where he was presenting a provincial quarterly report last week.
He said President Lungu directed him to work with the Ministry of Gender to come up with a programme for curbing child marriages and teen pregnancies in Muchinga province.
â€œThe President is disturbed with the high number of girls getting married, while others are falling pregnant at a tender age in the Province,â€™â€™ Mr Sichone said.
According to the Demographic Health Survey teenage pregnancies in Zambia, Muchinga stands at about 29 percent; whereas at provincial level, North-Western 40 percent takes the lead, followed by Western and Eastern both in second place at about 38 percent, whereas Muchinga and Northern and Copperbelt provinces all stand at about 29 percent.
Mr Sichone said he will be meeting Ms Kalima to discuss how the problem of child marriages and teen pregnancies in Muchinga Province could be dealt with.
Mr Sichone said three in every ten girls in Muchinga are married, pregnant or nursing babies. He said the problem threatens the future of many girls in the area and something needs to be done as soon as possible.
The minister has since asked the Zambia Police Service in Muchinga to embark on sensitising members of the community on the dangers of early marriage and pregnancy to young girls.
He further called on non-governmental organisations to come on board and assist Government in its quest to protect adolescents from the economic and health after-effects of child marriage.
Mr Sichone said the practice of parents marrying off young girls is common in Muchinga. Some children simply do not attend school for no apparent reason, therefore increasing their vulnerability to poverty.
The minister was however, happy to say that chiefs have joined hands with Government to dissuade young girls from early marriage and casual sex.
â€œEarly marriage cannot be curtailed by stiff laws, but there is need for parents and guardians to partner with Government in talking to their children on the importance of them delaying their sexual debut,â€ Mr Sichone said.
LINDA NYONDO, Lusaka