By Alois Vinga
A latest survey commissioned recently has blamed Zimbabwe’s economic recession and high poverty levels for the current rise in teenage pregnancies bedeviling the country.
The survey titled, ’National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe’ was undertaken by a technical team drawn from Plan International, Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council and Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare Ministry.
It was also supported through funding and technical support from UNICEF Zimbabwe, UNFPA, UNESCO, and WHO.
The survey established that adolescent pregnancy prevalence was 23, 7% for adolescents aged between 10 -19 years. Among the 337 pregnant adolescents, 4 % had disabilities. The analysis also shows that adolescent pregnancy prevalence was 0,9% among 10–14-year-olds and 41,2% among 15–19-year-olds.
The prevalence of pregnancy differed significantly between the two age groups, with older adolescents (15-19 years old) being 71,2 times more likely to be pregnant than young adolescents.
The report however identified two main problems as the drivers of teenage pregnancies in the country.
“The prevailing economic recession which led to poverty, unemployment, depletion of family savings, falling prices of their agricultural produce and migration of parents and caregivers has been cited as key drivers of adolescent pregnancy.
“The upsurge in parental migration has 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,” the report said.
The survey also established that 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 study says economic decline has also resulted in the need for children to supplement their parents’ or caregiver’s income.
In turn, such a scenario has seen adolescents venturing into artisanal gold panning, vending, or working as housemaids which has increased their vulnerability to early engagement in risky sexual behavior, drug and substance abuse and dropping out of school among other social ills.