Economic hardships blamed for rise in adolescent pregnancies – study

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By Alois Vinga

A recent study has revealed Zimbabwe’s economic hardships are the cause for the rise in adolescent pregnancies, underscoring that such negative impact has prompted untold decay in society’s moral standards.

The landmark report done by the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Aids Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other partners established that an estimated 1,706,946 Antenatal Care bookings (ANC)  were made in 1,560 healthcare facilities captured in the DHIS- 2 platform from 2019-2022 among women of childbearing aged 10 years and above.

 Of these, 21% were among adolescents aged 10-19 years.

A total of 1532 maternal deaths were recorded and of these 25% were among adolescent and young women under 24 years (data was not disaggregated to reflect the 10-19 years category.

Of the estimated 50,957 pregnant women newly testing HIV positive, 0.1% were among adolescents aged 10-14 years, 15% among the 15-19 years, 29% among the 20-24 years, 25% among the 25-29 years, 18% among the 30- 34 years, 11% among the 35-39 years, and 3% among the 40 years and above age

“The prevailing economic recession which led to poverty, unemployment, depletion of family saving, falling prices of their agricultural produce and migration of parents and caregivers has been cited as key drivers of adolescent pregnancy,” the report observes.

The document says the upsurge in parents’ migration has also undermined family structures leaving children alone or under the care of de facto caregivers thereby increasing children’s vulnerability to risky sexual behavior and sexual abuse.

“Lack of parental care and supervision because of parents/caregivers’ long working hours and prolonged absence from home has fueled adolescent pregnancies through consensual sex, transactional sex and sexual abuse.

“The economic decline has also resulted in the need for children to supplement their parents’ or caregiver’s income. Adolescents have been driven into artisanal gold panning, vending, or working as housemaids which have increased their vulnerability to early engagement in risky sexual behaviour, drug and substance use and dropping out of school among other social ills,” the report added.