By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire

Parents and guardians in Neno and Ntcheu districts have been called to support youth access to contraception and other sexual reproductive health and rights information and services to help reduce Adolescent and Youth Teen Pregnancies (AYTP), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) that indicate youth involvement in unprotected sex.

The calling that came during the community engagement meetings that FPAM conducted in Neno and Ntcheu districts that aimed at linking youth and health care providers was sparked by shocking figures of unintended pregnancies and venereal infection among 10 – 14 years adolescents

Chiefs indicated that although most parents are still closed to referring youth to health service providers for counseling and contraception services due to cultural and religious backgrounds, they are continuously reminding parents to be responsible for their youth and always link up with health service providers to delay first pregnancies that boost the health of the youth. “Who does not want his or her child to succeed in life? This is why chefs as supporting access to information and accommodating outreach mobile clinics to get contraception services closer to our homes,” GVH Dondire Nelson Champiti explained during the Champiti engagement meeting.

GVH Champiti encouraged parents to motivate their youth to link up with health service providers

During Nsambe and Matope meeting, Neno YFHS Coordinator, Anthony Moda Saniyang’ane, wondered why parents don’t support youth to access preventive solutions but rush to drag young ones to the hospital when they succumb to unintended pregnancies and venereal infections. “It’s worrying that the period 2019 to 2020 has registered a total of 4052 teen and unintended pregnancies among the youth aged 10 – 24.”

“It’s appalling to see that the 24 youth-friendly health services clinics in Ntcheu between January 2020 and June 2021 have registered a total of 419 teen pregnancies between 10-14 years and 8517 teen pregnancies between 15-19 years and 9083 between 20-25 years,” Benson Molande, YFHS Coordinator for the district stated the figures at Makwangwala, Mpando – Katsekera, and Njolomole meetings.

Speaking during the meetings, youth voices claimed that there is a need to strengthen the good relationship between youth and health service providers because some providers chase them when they visit the health facility for contraceptives and other SRHR/HIV/GBV services. They however indicated that their current work relation with community-based distribution agents is doing great as they easily access condoms and other short-term contraceptives.

Youth learning how contraceptive pills work during FP information sessions at Njolomole engagement meeting

The community engagement meetings unveiled that lack of accurate information about contraception, distance to the nearest service delivery point, lack of models, parents arranged child marriages, harmful cultural practices, and negative social norms are the main causative factors for unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. All the speakers during the meetings agreed that most parents deny that their youth indulge in unprotected sex hence the repercussions that affect family health and income capacities.