By Emmanuel Nduka
Lockdown measures occasioned by COVID-19 in South Africa have limited young girls’ access to contraception and abortion, resulting in a surge in teenage pregnancies.
According to ‘Save the Children’ in a statement on Tuesday, the number of children born to teen mothers in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, has increased by at least 60 percent since the pandemic hit.
The charity organization added that over 930 of those mothers were younger than 14.
According to government figure cited by the organization, more than 23,000 girls younger than 18 have given birth in Gauteng between April 2020 and March 2021, compared to the 14,577 girls aged 19 and below during the same period the previous year.
“The global pandemic risks being a time of irreversible setbacks and lost progress for girls.
“Unless we act fast and decisively, the impact on girls’ futures… will be devastating,” the charity’s National Manager on Health and Nutrition, Marumo Sekgobela said.
The statement added that teenage mothers are often stigmatised, forced to drop out of school and pushed into early marriage, while their babies also have lower survival rates and likelier to be neglected.
Thus, the charity urged the government to remove “barriers” accessing services and called on families, religious and traditional leaders to support teenagers’ rights to reproductive health.
South Africa’s health facilities are struggling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and a partial lockdown is still in place.
Schools have not resumed to full capacity, with students rotating between face-to-face and online lessons.