Negative health outcomes of teenage pregnancy

Giving teenagers reproductive health knowledge is very important. PHOTOI FILE

Coming from a poor family Amaya Kikole*, a resident of Sekei in Arusha, this year was forced to drop out of school after she got pregnant at the age of 13.

Her mother who is brokenhearted to see her beloved daughter expecting to encounter with parental responsibilities at that younger age.

“My daughter was raped by her cousin. But she didn’t tell me about the incident until I came to find out that she was already five-month pregnant,” Jshe narrates.

Currently, Amaya is seven months pregnant—expecting to give birth in December, confirms Kylie Gyubi, a registered nurse at Moivo dispensary where attends the clinic sessions.

“When Amaya first came here for a pregnancy test, she was accompanied by her mother,” says the nurse in an interview with Success.

Her mother says she suspected that her daughter was pregnant when she stopped asking for money to buy sanitary towels for over five months period.

“She used to ask me for money to buy sanitary towels at the end of every month. But for over five months she kept silent, I, therefore, doubted her condition,” says the mother.

Amaya who was Form One student at Ngiresi Secondary School further re-counts that she was intimidated by the rape suspect that he would kill her if she revealed his identity.

Being at younger age, Irene had no choice than accepting the command. She consulted a specialist at a near health facility for abortion service, but the specialist advised her to keep the baby.

“I thought of undergoing an abortion because I was so scared. But the specialist gave me some hope that I would give birth safely,” she says .

Amaya recalls that since childhood she dreamt of becoming a teacher. “I wish to get back to school after I give birth so that I fulfil my dreams to be a teacher, but my mother won’t afford the tuition fees imposed by the private schools.”

She adds: “I would really appreciate if I receive financial aid that will enable me to get back to school after I give birth. I am also looking forward to raising my child just like how my mother raised me.”

Tanzania has promised to build a nation where everyone should have the opportunity to get a quality education, except for pregnant teenage girls.

In 2015, Tanzania implemented a free education policy for high school, but the president now says that right does not extend to young mothers.

The adolescent birth/fertility rate is the number of births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19. Tanzania has the 17th highest adolescent fertility rate in Africa. The adolescent fertility rate has increased from 116 to 132 between the 2010 and

2015/16 Demographic Health Surveys (TDHS). Teenage pregnancy has also increased by 4 per cent in Tanzania since 2010; by 2016 one in four adolescents aged 15-19 had begun childbearing (UNFPA reports).

The reports further indicate that teenagers in rural areas are considerably more likely to have begun childbearing than their urban counterparts: 32 per cent of rural teenagers have had a live birth or are pregnant, compared with 19 per cent of urban teenagers.

In 2013, complications of pregnancy and childbirth were the second leading cause of death among 15 to 19-year-old girls globally, with nearly 70,000 deaths annually (UNFPA, 2013).

Some 3.9 million unsafe abortions occur every year among girls aged 15 to 19, contributing to maternal mortality and resulting in lasting health problems. Infants born to young mothers in Tanzania are at a much greater risk of death.

Mr Nicodemus Shauri, the programme manager from Tanzania Education Network (Tenmet) says “When a girl becomes pregnant, her life can change. Her education ends and her job prospects diminish. She becomes more vulnerable to poverty. Teen pregnancy burden, therefore, results in a cohort of young girls with little education and limited economic opportunities. It harms not only individual girls and women, but also their families, communities and countries.”

The local education expert further appeals to the government to lift its ban on pregnant girls in order to give them a chance to access their fundamental rights to quality education.

“The entire system including the government, schools, community members and have an obligation to equip the teenagers with reproductive health knowledge. It would help in curbing the burden,” says the expert.

He adds: “We need to learn from Zanzibar, Kenya, Uganda where the pregnant girls are allowed to resume studies after giving birth.”

Even from a biblical perspective, God teaches us to forgive one another.”

Stakeholders’ responses to combat teenage pregnancy

In order to ensure access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning, particularly in remote areas and for the most marginalized groups, Jhpiego in partnership with local government authorities under The Challenge Initiative (TCI) Tupange Pamoja has embarked on enhancing the capacity of healthcare providers and facilities for quality Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) services provision in Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Arusha regions.

The project which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also serves to scale up the use of modern contraceptive methods among all women aged 15-49 years in urban poor areas.

The Project Coordinator for Arusha, Waziri Njau says under the project, at least six school-based youth clubs have been launched in Arusha aimed at equipping the students with Family Planning (FP) and AYSRH knowledge in efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy in schools.

Monica Shagina, Matron at the Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA) acknowledges that the teenage pregnancy cases keep increasing at the University, noting that the burden is attributable to lack of reproductive health knowledge among the majority of the students.

“At the University level, the management also plans to introduce special FP and AYSRH programmes to be incorporated into the University’s teaching curriculum with a view to educating the students on the adolescent related issues,”

One of the (TCI) IAA Club’s leaders, Jovis Kalikawe reveals that the club consists of 45 mainly continuing students, saying other 130 new first-year students have been registered to join the club.

“Club members are being recruited to become Ambassadors of FP and AYSRH services at University level. We also distribute condoms to the students in efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies,” says Jovis.

During a recent visit to the University located in Arusha, Your Health witnessed scores of new members mainly the first year students get registered to join the club.

Studies demonstrate that school-based reproductive health education is linked with better health and reproductive health outcomes, including delayed sexual initiation, a lower frequency of sexual intercourse, fewer sexual partners and increased contraceptive use.