The highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world a�� 143 per 1 000 girls aged 15a��19 years a�� is in sub-Saharan Africa, where in general, women get married at much earlier ages than women elsewhere a�� leading to early pregnancies.
In Nigeria, according to the Health and Demographic Survey in 1992, 47 percent of women aged 20a��24 were married before 15 and 87 percent before 18. Fifty three percent of those surveyed also had given birth to a child before the age of 18.
Neighbouring countries like South Africa are also battling teenage pregnancies, which are out of wedlock, which affect girls as young as 13 who are at school and Zimbabwe has also not been spared. We reported last week that a Form Three pupil at Sobukhazi Secondary School in Bulawayo gave birth alone in a toilet, with no one at school or her home aware that she was expecting.
The story was just a tip of the iceberg of the challenge that the country is facing, as more and more children begin to indulge in sexual activities at a very young age. The effects of teenage pregnancies have far reaching consequences for the girl concerned, her immediate family and the nation at large as the girl becomes a burden to the family and loses out on valuable education time.
A local newspaper also reported recently that Gungwe Clinic in Gwanda has recorded a high rate of teenage pregnancies. An official at the clinic said they recorded several cases of teenage mothers and early this year, a 14-year-old girl delivered a baby at the clinic, something that also happened three years ago.
a�?Teenage pregnancies are high. Most of the teenage mothers are, however, HIV negative and the majority of them are school dropouts. Pregnancy and delivery are really difficult experiences for them. We have converted one of our rooms into a Friendly Corner where we teach them and give them information about the dangers of teenage pregnancies and what they should do.a�?
She says they have observed an intriguing pattern, which has enabled them to predict seasons of the year when there are high teenage pregnancies and deliveries.
a�?Usually in December, the injivas (Zimbabweans working in South Africa) are here and three months after, we have a lot of bookings with an average of 12 -13 and sometimes between 17 and 18 teenagers expecting to deliver,a�? she says.
What this means is that Government and families have to work hard in educating youths on the dangers of engaging in sexual activities early. There is certainly nothing rosy about teenage pregnancy – the young must be told.