By Tiyese Monjeza:
Authorities at Zomba District Health Office (DHO) have expressed concern over an alarming increase in teen pregnancies and Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) amongst the youths in the district.
A report that Zomba DHO Youth Friendly Health Services Provider and Trainer Hellen Truwah presented at a stakeholder’s interface meeting organised by Action Hope Malawi, indicated that in 2021, the district recorded 1118 STIs amongst youths, while 5665 teen pregnancies were also recorded.
The report also revealed that in 2019, the district recorded 2357 STIs amongst the youth, while 3800 cases were recorded in 2020.
The district recorded 6223 teen pregnancies in 2019, while 8333 were recorded in 2020.
Truwah attributed the rise in STIs and teen pregnancies to the lack of Youth Health Friendly Services across the 42 health centres in the district.
‘There is a low uptake of contraceptive methods amongst the youths where our data indicate that only seven percent of youths accessed family planning methods like use of a condom.
The figures are even higher in areas where there are Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) facilities since most of these facilities do not offer family planning methods. This means youths have to travel long distances to the nearest hospital to access family planning methods,’ Truwah said.
She further said another contributing factor was that youths are not comfortable accessing family planning methods hence they tend to engage in unprotected sex leading to an increase in STIs and teen pregnancies.
‘We are intensifying mobile outreach sessions in hard to reach areas where we are sensitising the youths on sexual reproductive health rights and distribute contraceptive methods,’ Truwah said.
Senior Chief Malemia and Zomba Malosa legislator Grace Kwelepeta urged traditional leaders to encourage youths in their communities to join youth clubs where they are briefed on relevant information on sexual reproductive health rights.
Action Hope Malawi Executive Director Sammy Aaron urged more partners to introduce projects aimed at curbing teen pregnancies and STIs which he contributes to the high dropout of youths in schools.