[By Masuzyo Chakwe in Luangwa]
LUANGWA district senior nursing officer Victoria Nkomeshya Ndhlovu says pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections are common among adolescent girls in the district.
Ndhlovu, who is also maternal child health and adolescent health services coordinator, said young people were at a stage in their lives where they were ‘experimental’.
“This age is an age which is very experimental in their lives and they want to experience everything so they are highly at risk – HIV and other STIs. There is sensitisation against that and also offering them services,” she said. “We test them and counsel them and those that are found positive, they are put on treatment and they are actually linked to the ART department.”
Ndhlovu said this when FAWEZA in partnership with WLSA with support from Equality Now took journalists on a site visitation to Mazabuka, Luangwa and Rufunsa.
The NGOs are implementing a two-year Access to Justice for Adolescent Girls in Zambia pilot project in the three districts.
She said the adolescent health service programme was quite active in the district.
“We attend to adolescents in the whole district. From our health sector we have divided the district into zones and in each community there is a health facility where we actually have adolescent focal point persons that are trained and they are the ones that supervise the adolescents in the facilities,” Ndhlovu said. “As a district we have five youth friendly corners which are quite active. The reason is that we don’t have enough infrastructure and also resources for adolescent health services.”
She said the five facilities offer counselling and family planning services and no adolescent is sent back when he or she goes for the service.
“We attend to them all,” she said.
Ndhlovu said the adolescent health programme was also incorporated in the outreach services.
She however said although there was community sensitisation, teenage pregnancies were on the rise.
“We have engaged our traditional leaders for that, against early marriages and teenage pregnancies. We have also worked together with the DEBS (District Education Board Secretary) because even in the schools, we have a good number of adolescents that have gotten pregnant,” Ndhlovu said. “So information is getting there. The Church also is on board and other stakeholders. We are working with them.”
She said the last statistics collected from the schools show that 200 pupils became pregnant from January to December 2019.
“… and we still have to get more because every quarter we get the records from the DEBS offices. So from this period we just collected just a few, there were about 20. So we are yet to consolidate what we have,” she said.
Ndhlovu said the product most sought by the youth was condoms.
“That’s what they actually come for and for the girls them they want to get some form of contraceptive. The one that we have is the oral contraceptive for them, but there are others who want to have the injectable and they are given,” she said. “The one which is highly on demand for the girls is the oral, but the injectable I feel is better for them because sometimes for the oral they may forget to take the pill so the injectable is better for them, 15 to 19, they are less than 20 years (old). They come on their own, although there is one that actually came with a parent that one needed some counselling. So they were helped, both the mother and the adolescent.”
Ndhlovu also said there was a reduction in demand for services during the COVID-19 period because most of the youth had left the district.