Editor's Comment

Teen pregnancies still uphill battle

REPORTS that Eastern Province has recorded over 7,000 adolescent pregnancies, are not only disheartening but a clear indication that the vice is still an uphill battle that needs more efforts.
Compared to the same period in 2018, the province recorded 7,794 adolescent pregnancies indicating a reduction of about 794.
While it is comforting that there is a reduction, our focus should be on the number of girls who have gotten pregnant.
Seven thousand girls getting unwanted pregnancies in one province and under a period of three months is alarming and should send shocking waves in any human being.
Last year, the total number of underage girls that got pregnant in Eastern Province alone was over 24,000.
At national level, teenage pregnancy currently stands at 29 percent.
According to provincial principal nursing officer Samuel Chizalila, one in five adolescent girls are already married compared to only 1 in 100 adolescent boys aged 15-19; and one out of every four girls aged 17 and six out of every 10 girls aged 19 have already started child bearing.
These statistics are horrifying enough to give any well-meaning Zambian sleepless nights in search of a quick and permanent solution.
While it is appreciated that stakeholders such as Government, civil society organisations, the Church, traditional leaders and many others have been working to reduce the cases of teen pregnancies, it is evident that a lot more still needs to be done to arrest the scourge.
Seven thousand girls getting pregnant are not just a statistic, but the number of girls who have the potential to contribute immensely to the development of the nation who may never have an opportunity to do so.
This is because when the girls get pregnant, the chances of pursuing their education become slim. Despite having a re-entry policy in place, the girl with a child will need to find someone to take care of the baby while attending class. For those who cannot find such support, it means abandoning school to look after the child.
With the coming of the child on board, needs escalate. Finding a balance between the needs of the child and education becomes a challenge for many. This is much more that some of the girls are lured into relationships that lead to pregnancy due to poverty.
The 7,000 also translates to the number of lives likely to be sentenced to poverty for life, especially those in unredeemable situations.
The figure is also indicative of the number of mothers who may not afford to put their children through education.
The number of pregnant girls further points to the potential maternal deaths due to complications that arise as a result of their bodies not being ready for child bearing.
For instance, among the 7,000 girls is a 10-year-old girl. At 10, many girls would not have even attained puberty and their bodies are far from being ready to carry and deliver a child. This increases the risk of complications and maternal death.
There is evidently need to heighten sensitisation on the importance of abstaining from sexual activities among young people.
Young people need to fully understand the consequences and complications of getting pregnant at a young age.
Given that teen pregnancies are more prevalent in rural areas, it could be that girls in such areas lack inspiration to pursue education.
There is need for various organisations to mobilise professionals from different fields and conduct mentorship programmes. This way, girls will be made to realize that there is more to life than marriage.
All in all, concerted efforts are required from families, the Church, traditional leaders, corporate world, civil society organisations and Government, among others, if this monster called teen pregnancy is to be conquered.
There is need for all stakeholders to put resources and ideas together to find a permanent solution to the scourge.
As the situation is now, the picture is gloomy.

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