Education officials in Malawi’s Mangochi district are reporting over 7,000 teenage girls in the locality have gotten pregnant since the country’s government ordered the closure of schools some four months ago to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking to local online news platform, Nyasa Times, Peter Malipa, the Youth Friendly Health Services Coordinator for the district, said the current figures are up by 1000 pregnant teenage girls in comparison to last year’s numbers around the similar period. Malipa added that 166 of the pregnant girls are as young as 10 and 14 years old.
The government of Malawi ordered the closure of schools in March. From that period onwards, the Phalombe township recorded 1000 pregnancies while the Mzimba and Nsanje townships recorded 400 and 324 respectively.
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Nyasa Times reports officials from the landlocked country’s Ministry of Education have announced they are set to meet stakeholders over the course of the week to deliberate on the current crisis.
The director of the Civil Society Coalition on Education, Benedicto Kondowe, said the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the lives of young women in the country, adding that the period has also seen a spike in gender-based violence, exploitation, as well as other kinds of abuse against adolescent girls, Nyasa Times further reports.
The directive to close schools was issued by the Malawian government even before the southeastern African country recorded its first COVID-19 case. The country has so far recorded over 3,700 cases with over 100 deaths and over 1,600 recoveries.
In a related news, Kenyan officials, at the beginning of July, also announced a surge in the number of teenage pregnancies during the COVID-19 lockdown, with over 150,000 cases recorded. During three months of lockdown, 152,000 Kenyan teenage girls became pregnant, a 40 per cent increase in the monthly average, VOA reports.
According to officials in Kenya, there has been a significant rise in teenage pregnancies, especially since the start of Covid-19 restrictions in March. Data released by the east African country’s health ministry show that in just one county, about 4,000 teenage girls have become pregnant since the start of the year.
As part of safety measures announced by the government, schools were closed nationwide in mid-March. The authorities fear that close relatives of the underage girls could be responsible for their pregnancies.
Tabitha Mukoya, a 45-year-old woman, who lives in a remote village of Machakos County in Kenya told VOA she recently discovered that her teenage daughter was pregnant after she noticed her wearing a sweater for many days.
Her teenage daughter is one of the over 150,000 teenagers who have gotten pregnant. Officials say some of the girls are aged 14 and below. “How can a 12-year-old girl become a mother?” Machakos Children’s Officer, Salome Muthama, said.
Kenya reportedly has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world, making up 82 out of 1,000 births.