By Mary Taruvinga
MASHONALAND Central province has recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies owing to an influx of illegal miners and farming activities in the area, according to official statistics.
Information from the Health Ministry shows that in 2018, 21 percent of girls between the ages of 1 and 19 dropped out of school due to Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUP).
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) programmes officer, Masimba Nyamucheta revealed the shocking figures at a media training workshop ahead of EUP campaign launch scheduled for this Thursday.
Girls drop out of school and give in to early marriages due to poverty as economic hardships continue to worsen in Zimbabwe.
“At least 115 out of 1 000 girls drop out of school due to EUP every year in Zimbabwe. the prevalence is high in rural compared to urban areas,” said Nyamucheta.
“Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that Mashonaland Province is the problem area with a prevalence of 28 percent having been recorded in 2018.”
Nyamucheta however said the problem continues to rise in Zimbabwe due to poverty and other drivers including lack of awareness and cultural practices.
He said last year alone, 411 primary school going girls dropped out of school across the country.
“The young girls cannot negotiate for safe sexual practices, a situation which exposes them to HIV and Aids infection. Some who get pregnant also face complications in giving birth resulting in increased mortality.
“In Zimbabwe, one in every three girls is likely to be married at the age of 16,” he said.
Meanwhile, to counter this social scourge, countries in East and Southern Africa (ESA) came together and signed a pact.
The agreement aims to scale up comprehensive sexuality education and sexual reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in the region.
Health and education ministers from the respective countries which include Zimbabwe committed to reduce EUP by 75%, as well as HIV infection by 95% among adolescents.
Zimbabwe will this Thursday launch the national EUP campaign in Epworth where the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa is expected to officiate at the event.