MBOMBELA, SOUTH AFRICA-- Teenage pregnancy in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province is on the rise with public healthcare facilities reporting a 78 per cent increase in just one year, according to Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Health in the province, Sasekani Manzini.

Mpumalanga recorded 5,609 deliveries in healthcare facilities to mothers under 18 years of age with all three districts in the province showing a sharp increase in the number of teenage pregnancies.

Manzini says the Health Department has embarks on awareness campaigns aimed at educating communities on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health, contraception and family planning, but it seems that these campaigns are not yielding positive results.

Of particular concern is that the Department of Health does not have any mandatory reporting tool to report or investigate the circumstances around any 10 to 15 year old girl becoming pregnant. By not having a system to report or investigate these pregnancies, the department could be turning a blind eye to cases of young girls being raped.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party says that while the Health Department, on its own, cannot curb teenage pregnancies, using the information available to her, Manzini must work with the Education Department and all relevant stakeholders to educate children about the consequences of teenage pregnancy.

It claims that the sad reality is many of these pregnancies are as a result of girls being taken advantage of by older men, often called blessers and these pregnancies very often result in girls dropping out of school and even being exposed to HIV/AIDS.

The DA called on Manzini and the MEC for Education, Sibusiso Malaza, to intensify sex education in all schools and healthcare facilities in the province and to partner with experts in the field to assist in disseminating the information to teenagers, including boys.

With Mpumalanga's ailing economy and high unemployment rate, it is clear that more needs to be done to keep learners, especially girls in school so that they can ultimately contribute constructively to the development of this province, the DA said in a statement Thursday.


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