Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo has recorded a sharp increase in the number of teenage pregnancies involving girls as young as 12, state radio reported on Friday. According to statistics from Mpilo Central Hospital, one of the two major health institutions in the city, children aged from 12 to 16 years now account for about 30% of deliveries.
Teenagers, despite mental immaturity, have under-developed pelvises which increase the risk to obstructed labour, maternal deaths, paralysis and obstetric fistula. Early sexual engagement also increases the risk of girls suffering cervical cancer which is the leading cancer in Zimbabwe and one of killer diseases among women.
Reports also show that when a girl falls pregnant, they drop out of school and eventually give up on their studies. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), early sexual debut and sexual abuse of female adolescents increase the girls’ risk to unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV and psycho-social challenges in their lives.
UNFPA adds that the most cited reasons for teenage pregnancy 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.