By Bulawayo Correspondent
CASES of teenage pregnancies and early child marriages have been on the increase in the border town of Beitbridge during the Covid-19 induced closure of schools, a recent Population Mobility Mapping (PMM) survey has revealed.
According to the study conducted by the International Organisation for Immigration (IOM) in the district last October, cases of teenage pregnancies and early child marriages have been rampant in settlements along illegal exit and entry points to neighboring South Africa.
Beitbridge has more than 22 unofficial entry points into South Africa.
However, nefarious activities along the illegal points such as goods smuggling and child smuggling have brought several societal challenges in the district.
“This (teenage pregnancies and early child marriages) was attributed to schools’ closure and lack of sexual reproductive health services in the communities such as access to condoms, contraceptives and information,” the survey reveals.
“For example, Shashe Clinic in Ward 8 reported 38 teen pregnancies in the current yearly quarter starting in October 2020, compared to the previous quarter (June to September 2020) in which 22 teen pregnancies were reported.”
The research noted that there is a gap between sexual and reproductive services as in some areas access to condoms, contraceptives and information was not readily available.
“An increase of teenage pregnancies and early marriages in the time of Covid-19 in the communities closer to informal points of entry were also reported,” the PMM report noted.
Participants in the study included representatives from the police, ministries of health, local government, public works, the immigration department, and Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) among other agencies.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the most cited reasons for teenage pregnancies include sexual abuse, lack of condom or contraceptives use, perceptions that one would not fall pregnant and unplanned sexual debuts.
Zimbabwean laws stipulate that sexual intercourse with girls below the age of 16 amounts to a crime that can see one facing “sex with a minor “charges.