Teenage pregnancy rate on the decline

KAYLYNN PALM

The City of Cape Town’s health directorate has announced a decline in the teenage pregnancy rate.

Speaking at Rocklands High School as part of an outreach programme on Wednesday April 13, Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health, said the data for 2015 has not been finalised yet, but indications are that there has been a drop in the number of teenage pregnancies compared with the previous year.

Mr Mamkeli said school outreach programmes have become a crucial intervention.

Rocklands Secondary school acting principal, Francois Nekosie, said it is important to empower and educate pupils about teenage pregnancy.

“Our pupils come from different backgrounds and environments, so it is important for them to be educated about the consequences and also health risks that come with it. I also think that we should talk about these issues, we’re living in an open society,” he said.

Mr Nekosie said the whole school attended the assembly and added the presence of Mr Mamkeli was appreciated.

“Teenage pregnancy rates have decreased and that’s good. We will continue to create awareness about teen pregnancy in our Life Orientation classes,” he said.

Grade 12 pupil Asanda Mbayise, 17, said teenage pregnancy is a serious issue in communities and said girls should be educated about the topic.

“I think we are being educated in schools and some at home, but we also need to listen. Mr Mamkeli spoke about teenage pregnancy and most importantly the effects of it. If you are a teen mother there are consequences and it may impact on your life because you have to meet your own needs and the baby’s too.

“You also need to be emotionally and physically ready and in high school how are you able to be that ready,” she said.

In the province, 69 908 live births were recorded last year, and 2 704 were to mothers under the age of 18. This accounted for 3.87 percent of all births.

Mr Mamkeli said the decline is “good news”.

“I want to applaud young women and men who are taking responsibility for their sexual health. We need to stop clinging to the belief that young children will listen to us when we tell them to abstain. Ideally, yes, but the fact is that many are having sex and so it is our responsibility to make sure that they do so responsibly,” he said.

He said looking at the figures, it is clear that more and more young people are taking that responsibility, but also that the interventions are hitting the mark.

“It is still a challenge to get some schools to agree to us engaging with their pupils, but we are seeing greater willingness on the part of some and I commend those principals and school governing bodies.

“Ignorance is no longer a defence – children need to learn their various subjects, but I believe that reproductive health is probably one of the most crucial aspects of life orientation. The more we educate our young people, the better choices they are able to make,” he said.

Mr Mamkeli said City Health and its partners aim to provide reproductive health services to at least 40 000 young people under the age of 18 in this financial year.

In the first quarter, July to September last year, just over 10 500 young clients received this service.

City Health offers various contraceptive methods free of charge, including the pill, injection, intra-uterine devices and condoms. People are also able to be tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV and receive appropriate counselling, treatment and care if required.

Mr Mamkeli said last year more than 1.9 million female condoms were distributed in the eight City Health sub-districts, compared with 1.72 million in 2014. The directorate also distributed nearly 54 million male condoms and treated a total of 42 713 sexually transmitted infections, down from 43 190 in 2014.

“Our clinics are open for business and I invite anyone who needs advice or guidance around issues of reproductive help to get to their nearest clinic so that our staff can help you make the right choices for your circumstances,” he said.