Teenage pregnancies down

2016-04-26 06:00
 Mayco Member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli with pupils of Rocklands High School after his session last week. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

Mayco Member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli with pupils of Rocklands High School after his session last week. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

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Teenage pregancy in Cape Town has decreased, officials say.

And although the results will only be finalised in the next month or two, the City of Cape Town have expressed their enthusiasm with the early signs that the teenage pregnancy rate has declined even further year on year.

For the year 2015 there has been a drop in the number of teenage births compared with the previous year.

Of the 69 908 live births recorded in 2015, 2704 were to mothers under the age of 18. This accounted for 3.87% of all births.

“This is very good news indeed and I want to applaud our young women and men who are taking responsibility for their sexual health,” says Mayco member for Health Siyabulela Mamkeli.

“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. 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.”

School outreach programmes have become a crucial intervention for City Health. On Wednesday 13 April, Mamkeli addressed pupils at Rocklands Secondary School as part of the outreach programme.

“In a nutshell, it is about educating young people on issues pertaining to teen sexual health, making good life choices and also how they can access services to prevent unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections,” Mamkeli explains to People’s Post. “Schools are but one of the locations identified to engage with young people. City Health has also identified sport and recreation hubs, libraries and various programmes offered by the Social Development and Early Childhood Directorate as opportunities to engage with the target audience.”

Mamkeli has since been invited to speak at Glendale High and Rocklands.

“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,” added Mamkeli.

He explains the Health Department staff also do ongoing outreach work in their respective sub-districts. City Health has eight sub-districts across the metropole. Mamkeli says they are also looking to create youth clinics outside exisiting clinics.

“We are trying to create as many platforms as possible to engage with youth. Inside the clinics, we are providing ongoing training to healthcare workers to sensitise them to the needs of young people, prioritising adolescents attending clinics and fast-tracking them using queue marshals, but also making educational material available in waiting areas,” says Mamkeli.

“Ideally we would also want to build more youth clinics. However, City Health has a responsibility to all communities to provide services and unfortunately we do not have unlimited funding that can address the demands of all the different interest groups. We therefore have to be very strategic in terms of where services are rolled out, based on where the greatest need is – according to our annual statistics.”

City Health partnered with a number of organisations in 2015 talking to teenage health issues.

“Ideally, young people should abstain until they are old enough to deal with the potential consequences of unprotected sex – like being able to care independently for a baby. However, we know that young people are experimenting and so we need to ensure that they are as well prepared against the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections as possible,” says Mamkeli.

Part of their intervention includes dispensing contraception and advice at clinics, and during outreach campaigns at schools and other forums.

“We need to continue educating young people and raising awareness on the choices available to them and make those options as easily accessible as possible. An informed young person is a healthy young person. We also need to start addressing the attitudes of some parents and larger communities – ignorance will get us nowhere. We need to start talking to children about their sexual health and well-being and if you as a parent or guardian do not feel comfortable doing it, take the child to the clinic or an NGO working in your community – but we need to get the message out,” he says.

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

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