RUNDU: The results of a study on the teenage pregnancy rate in the Kavango Region conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) last year, were released on Wednesday.
The results, which earlier this year sent shockwaves throughout the country, were released by Kavango Regional Governor Maurus Nekaro on behalf of Health and Social Services’ Deputy Minister Petrina Haingura at Rundu.
The study revealed that the teenage pregnancy rate in the Kavango Region was double the national average, standing at 34 per cent amongst the 15 to 19-year-old age group.
The national average teenage pregnancy rate is 15 per cent.
Presenting the findings, USAID Technical Advisor on HIV and AIDS Dr Mbayi Kangudie said in sub-Saharan Africa, the main drivers of teenage pregnancy are a lack of education and poverty.
According to last year’s study, 91 per cent of pregnancies amongst young women in the Kavango Region were unwanted. The study found that 98 per cent of young people were informed about contraceptives, but only 8.7 per cent of them used it.
The majority of those responsible for impregnating the young girls were workers, schoolmates, teachers, construction workers and Namibian Defence Force (NDF) members.
The negative attitude of nurses who apparently victimise girls whenever they go to health centres seeking contraceptives, was also found to have contributed to the high number of teenage pregnancies in the region.
Dr Kangudie explained that the study found that condom use in the Kavango Region was very low at 36 per cent, which raised the question whether the inhabitants of the region were ‘allergic to condom use’ as these are readily available.
Meanwhile, in a speech read on her behalf by Nekaro, Haingura stated that the alarming teenage pregnancy rate in the region is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated as it compromises the region’s economic programmes.
The deputy minister said the high number of teenage pregnancies imply that young people are practicing unprotected sex, and this results in more school dropouts, which perpetuates poverty.
“Teenage pregnancies result in poor health outcomes and lower birth weight amongst babies,” she stated.
Haingura thus urged all stakeholders, including traditional and community members, to grasp the opportunity presented by the findings and to make a change.
She also called on teachers to ‘stop harassing’ learners for sex, and then urged nurses to stop being judgemental towards young people seeking family planning advice.
The teenage pregnancy study contained several broad recommendations which, amongst others, includes making health services more adolescent-friendly.
The study suggests the need to adopt a behaviour-change communication approach to foster consistent condom use, and to facilitate communication between adults and teens before or shortly after the onset of menses amongst teens to avoid pregnancies associated with being inexperienced.
The study primarily focused on focus group discussions and interviews with members of the public as well as civil and traditional sectors in the Kavango Region.