ZIMBABWE has the highest teenage fertility rate in sub Saharan Africa, according to a national study.
The study revealed that one in every 10 girls, aged between 15 to 19 years falls pregnant every year. Cultural and religious practices are being blamed.
According to the shocking report, Zimbabwe records between 500 000 and 700 000 pregnancies annually. The report has also shown that almost a fifth of the pregnancies in this group are due to early child marriage.
Zimbabwe's fertility is recorded to be twice as high in rural areas as opposed to those living in urban areas. Another concerning factor is the high rate of women dying while giving birth.
In 2016, government recorded that 514 women died while bringing in new life.
“This, therefore, requires our urgent attention as teenage pregnancy severely curtails girls and young women's opportunity and hinders their ability to reach their full potential. A young adolescent girl can be an asset for her country if she is not married off during her childhood, if she is not forced to leave school or exposed to an unplanned pregnancy that puts her to high risk of illness,” says the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)'s Zimbabwe Representative Cheikh Cisse.
According to the UNFPA, every day in developing countries, 20 000 young girls under 18 give birth. This amounts to 7.3 million births a year. Southern Africa has the highest level of adolescent pregnancy. It is estimated at 101 births per 1000 woman.
Cisse says teenage pregnancy remains a major challenge around the world.
“Throughout the world pregnancy remains a challenge to young people. Adolescent pregnancy is a major contributor to maternal and child mortality and to the vicious cycle of ill health and poverty.”
Zimbabwe's health ministry has since called on traditional leaders to respect the country's laws and move away from some cultural practices that marry off young girls.