DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata
THE International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has launched a four-year Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)-HIV Knows no Borders Project aimed at addressing the plight of sexual workers, migrants and adolescents in Chipata and Katete districts.
And Ministry of Health permanent secretary for health services Jabbin Mulwanda is worried about the high rate of child bearing among the adolescents who are prone to HIV.
Under the joint project, Save the Children and the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) of South Africa are working in the region to promote SRHR-HIV among the affected groups.
Dr Mulwanda launched the project in Chipata City yesterday with a call for concerted efforts in addressing the plights of sexual workers, migrants and adolescents.
â€œThe project is timely as it complements the ministryâ€™s efforts in addressing the challenges faced by migrants, sexual workers and adolescents not only in Chipata and Katete but countrywide,â€ he said.
Dr Mulwanda said IOM and its partners should be supported if high teen pregnancies were to be reduced in the country.
He said girls between the ages of 17 and 19 years gave birth by the time they were 18 and 19 years old, a sad development that needed to be stopped.
Dr Mulwanda said SRHR-HIV was cross-cutting issue and that concerted efforts were needed as evident from stakeholders attending the launch who included traditional leaders.
He said the Ministry of Health was concerned about addressing the health challenges, which was why in February last month, 570 workers were deployed to Eastern Province to provide quality healthcare services.
IOM-Zambia chief of mission Abibatou Wane said the agencyâ€™s health programme promoted initiative targeting migrants, mobile-population, sex workers and migration affected communities in identified spaces of vulnerability.
Ms Wane said migration corridors were hotspots for sex workers and a conducive environment for risky sexual partnerships, heightening SRHR-HIV risks.
She said HIV prevalence ranged between 48 and 68 percent among female sex workers and between 19 to 45 percent among clients of sex workers.
Save the Children country director Tarmar Korolos said the project was funded by the Dutch government and would be implemented in Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.
Mr Korolos said the project aimed at creating an enabling local, national and regional environment that stimulated access to SRHR-HIV.
And Chief Mdzamawe said Chipata City has seen an influx of trafficked boys aged between 14 and 21 years from Malawi into Zambia for cheap labour.
He said the project would help curb the challenges most trafficked boys face in Chipata and Lundazi.
And a female commercial sex worker said sex work was still illegal in Zambia and viewed as a taboo and that sex workers were despised and loathed by society.
She said sex workers are human beings with feelings and have rights just like anyone else.
She said the project was timely as it would help her and her colleagues access SRHR-HIV services in Katete and Chipata.
DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata