Population boom linked to unplanned babies?

An illustration of teenage pregnancy. | Jennifer Bruce/ Independent Newspapers

An illustration of teenage pregnancy. | Jennifer Bruce/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 11, 2024


Durban — World Population Day, is marked every July 11 and according to the Statistics SA website, it seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly development plans and programmes.

According to Stats SA, Census 2022 showed South Africa’s population increased from 51.7 million in 2011 to more than 62 million in 2022; a growth rate of 1.8%.

Between April 2017 and September 2021, the number of births to young and adolescent girls between 10 and 14 years of age increased by 48.7%, Amnesty International reports. Between April 2020 and March 2021, 934 girls between aged 10 and 14 years old-14 gave birth in Gauteng alone.

Of the 1 764 babies born in South Africa on January 1, 2022, 65 were born to adolescent girls. The youngest was a 13-year-old from the Eastern Cape.

Amnesty International said it was important to note that these are the number of births, not the number of pregnancies – some pregnancies ended in abortions and miscarriages.

Amnesty International SA executive director Shenilla Mohamed said these were staggering numbers.

Early pregnancy had a ripple effect in terms of adverse impact, she said.

“Often these pregnancies result in these girls being forced to drop out of school or fall behind with their school work. This results in a cycle of poverty – them requiring public assistance, being stigmatised, and sometimes even being forced to marry early.”

Other factors such as gender inequality, gender-based violence, substance abuse, poor access to contraceptives (as well as limited education about the options available), barriers to accessing termination of pregnancy, as well as many healthcare system challenges, all negatively influence this problem further.

The KZN Health Department released the new “Zikhala Kanjani” national prevention strategy to place youth at the centre of the fight against teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and STIs.

KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said new thinking, such as women being “revolutionary” and carrying their own condoms, must be encouraged. Fresh approaches were needed, if society was to rid itself of situations where girls as young as 10 are falling pregnant, while up to 1 300 girls aged 15-24 get infected with HIV countrywide every week.

The MEC said it is time for young people to be placed at the centre of the fight against teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. Parents need to get involved and be prepared to initiate and lead tough conversations about sex.

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