NELSPRUIT: Teenage pregnancy in Mpumalanga is on the rise with public healthcare facilities reporting a 78% increase in just one year.
According to answers received from Health MEC, Sasekani Manzini, the province recorded 5 609 deliveries in healthcare facilities to mothers under 18 years of age with all three districts showing a sharp increase in the number of teenage pregnancies.
MEC Manzini claims that the Health Department embarks on awareness campaigns aimed at educating communities on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health, contraception and family planning, yet it seems that these campaigns are not yielding positive results.
Of particular concern is that the Department of Health does not have any mandatory reporting tool to report or investigate the circumstances around a 10 to the 15-year-old girl falling pregnant. By not having a system to report or investigate these pregnancies, the department could be turning a blind eye to cases of young girls being raped.
While the Health Department, on its own, cannot curb teenage pregnancies, using the information available to her, MEC Manzini must work with the Education Department and all relevant stakeholders to educate children about the consequences of teenage pregnancy.
The sad reality is many of these pregnancies are as a result of girls being taken advantage of by older men, often called “blessers,” and these pregnancies very often result in girls dropping out of school and even being exposed to HIV/AIDS and STIs.
The DA calls on MEC Manzini and Education MEC, Sibusiso Malaza, to intensify sex education in all our schools and healthcare facilities and to partner with experts in the field to assist in disseminating the information to teenagers including boys.
“With Mpumalanga’s ailing economy and [the] high unemployment rate, it is clear that more needs to be done to keep learners, especially girls in school so that they can ultimately contribute constructively to the development of this province,” says DA in a statement.