Cape Town - An increase in teenage pregnancies during the Covid-19 pandemic is the result of a dysfunctional society rather than a health crisis, says the Health Department’s chief director of Women, Maternal, and Reproductive Health, Dr Manala Makua.
Since the onset of the pandemic, teenage deliveries in the 10 to14 age group have increased by around 67%.
A number of possible contributing factors have led to increased deliveries, she said, including biomedical, social, economic, and educational factors.
Makua revealed during a media briefing on Monday that over 4 000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 delivered their babies in the period April 2020 to March 2021.
Between April 2017 and March 2018 only 2 700 deliveries were recorded in the same age group.
In the 15 to 19 age group, between 2020 and 2021 there were over 134 000 deliveries.
“We are likely to see the numbers growing higher and higher. Why would 4 000 girls who are between 10 and14 years old fall pregnant? They are falling pregnant under our watch. Our message should be that we need zero deliveries of 10-to-14-year-olds,” said Makua.
A possible contributing factor to the increase of teenage pregnancies is the late introduction of age-appropriate sexuality education, she said.
“There should be no age restriction to access sexual reproductive health services. The education sector is postponing this,” Makua said.
Last month, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the department would intensify the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, which aims to empower young people with age-appropriate information.
“We are concerned about the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies in the country. Let us be clear that it is not just a problem of Gauteng, it is a national crisis,” she said.
Head of Reproductive Medicine at Steve Biko Hospital, Professor Zozo Nene, said addressing teenage pregnancy is the responsibility of everyone, including health-care providers, the government, educators and religious leaders.
“We can no longer sit idly by while children are having children. We get scared when they tell us the statistics and we get shocked, but after that we just leave everything and we don't do anything about it,” she said.