Durban - Recent statistics reveal that the number of KwaZulu-Natal teens becoming pregnant remains shockingly high, despite a province-wide awareness campaign by the department of health to combat the issue.
The department’s latest figures show that from April last year to March, more than 21 000 girls under 18 visited state hospitals for antenatal care. This was almost 10 percent of all the women who visited these facilities for antenatal care in the same period.
In June last year, health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo raised concerns around the escalating rate of teenage pregnancies in which older men were the fathers and announced his “Sugar Daddy Campaign” geared at making cross-generational sex a taboo.
To reinforce this, 89 billboards, warning against cross-generational sex, went up around the province.
Dhlomo said recently that the campaign had provoked debate across KZN and the rest of the country, but that efforts needed to be intensified.
“While it is unacceptable for teenagers to be impregnated by their peers, it is devastating when old men impregnate young girls,” he said.
“These ‘sugar daddies’ who sleep with young girls are not doing it out of love, they are doing it out of lust.”
Hardest-hit in recent months was the Umkhanyakude district, on the North Coast, where teenage mothers-to-be made up 11.28 percent of those visiting state hospitals for antenatal care.
The department considers the district the most rural and impoverished in the province.
A staggering 36 percent of the 600 000-strong population, mostly women and children, have no means of income and there are more than than 3 000 child-headed homes.
Teenage pregnancies were least common in eThekwini, where just under eight percent of the pregnant women and girls visiting state hospitals for antenatal care were under 18.
Social worker Janine Pepper of Cast (Church Alliance for Social Transformation), said these statistics reflected what she saw in the field.
“Sex education programmes are not working,” she said, “We don’t know why but children and teens, in the townships and rural areas especially, are not responding to them.”
Girls living in low-income areas were at a high risk of falling prey to older men, Pepper said.
“Contrary to popular belief most of these girls are not getting pregnant to access social grants; that doesn’t even cross their minds,” she said.
“But these men offer to pay, for example, for their schooling in return for sex and they agree because of their circumstances.”
She said girls living in child-headed households sought the love and affection they would usually get from parents. - The Mercury