Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is enthused by the continued drop in the number of births recorded to mothers aged 18 and under, the city said on Sunday.
In 2016, 2 588 of the 70 629 births recorded at public health facilities were to teenage mothers. In percentage terms, it was a slight improvement to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent 2015, and in line with the general downward trend observed since 2006 when women under 18 accounted for 5.3 percent of births recorded, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services JP Smith said.
“There are no definitive reasons for the decline; needless to say we welcome it. There have been exhaustive efforts around education and awareness of safe sex and we have also expanded our condom distribution programme.
“I think we are seeing the dividends, but there is still a mountain to climb. It is also worth noting that the teenage pregnancy rate is more than likely slightly higher, but we do not have comprehensive data on termination of pregnancies,” Smith said.
City Health provided basic antenatal care for expectant mothers who were encouraged to enrol at their nearest clinic by the time they were 20 weeks pregnant. In addition, clinics also actively promoted the First 1000 Days strategy focusing on the health and well-being of children from the time of conception until the age of two years.
Another important aspect was family planning services. Generally, the most popular form of contraception obtained from city facilities across age groups remained the injection (both the two- and three-month injections), representing 37 percent of the methods used.
In the past 12 months, City Health facilities provided reproductive health services to 41 046 clients under the age of 18 – slightly lower than the corresponding period the year before. Some of the reasons included refusal for health outreach programmes at schools and young people who were reluctant to visit their local clinics for fear of being stigmatised.
“It is a fact that there continues to be some resistance to reproductive health education and access for young people. The net result is unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections that often set in motion a chain of consequences, not least of which is the potential setback to a young woman’s educational and economic prospects,” Smith said.
“While we have seen an increase in the number of schools who have requested health promotion visits to address reproductive health issues, there are still far too many who refuse to participate. We appeal to them to work with us to empower and educate young people, even if it means sessions outside of school hours.”
City Health was in the process of obtaining four “mobile vehicles” that could be used to conduct outreach programmes, including family planning for teenagers. The department was also working closely with other city departments to ensure access to education and services for young people, Smith said.