Namibia continues to grapple with teenage pregnancies

WINDHOEK, June 26 — It is Sunday afternoon and Candice Doeseb has been walking for the past six hours going door to door asking for help for her 18 month old baby.

At 19 years old, Doeseb is among the thousands of teenage mothers in Namibia who are struggling to make ends meet and have resorted to begging as they have no other means to survive.

The mother of two lives with her sick mother who was laid off from work because she was failing to manage due to her serious illness.
Every day, the young mother walks from location to location asking for money and food to feed her infant and her mother.
Sometimes she offers to do part time work for payment in the form of money or food.

Her 18 month old baby has a medical condition where he eats through a tube on his neck thus the mother has to buy formula because the baby cannot have solid foods.
“I have two kids, the first one is four years old and lives with her father. I live with the second one because his father refused responsibility from when I found out I was pregnant,” she says.

Doeseb left school at 14 when she became pregnant.
When asked why she decided to have another baby after her first, the young mother admitted that both incidences were mistakes which she cannot take back but only live with it.

“You don’t always choose your destiny. This is the only life I know. What I can only do now is work hard and provide for my baby,” she said.
High teenage pregnancy rate is of great concern in the southwest African nation where authorities have warned that the country is sitting on a time bomb.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2016 and 2017 showed that about 19 percent of mothers who visited clinics in the capital city Windhoek for antenatal care were teenagers. These figures only represent cases reported at government clinics.

The country has since established an education sector policy for the prevention and management of learner pregnancy which experts say is actually encouraging rather than preventing teenagers from getting pregnant.
Under this policy, a girl may choose to continue with her education until four weeks before giving birth and she could continue with her schooling after giving birth.

According to a parliamentary standing committee on gender equality, social development and family affairs, the country is losing the battle against teenage pregnancy as teenage pregnancy rates increase every year.
Meanwhile, Eastern and Southern African governments will in July roll out a campaign that is aimed at addressing the issue of early and unintended pregnancies among school going adolescents.

This was revealed at the ongoing joint meeting of ministers responsible for education and training and science technology and innovation held in Namibia last week.
This is in line with the governments’ commitment to accelerate access to comprehensive sexuality education and health services for adolescents.

“The campaign seeks to engage relevant stakeholders to motivate policy, social and behaviour change that contributes to reducing and ultimately eliminating early and unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion among adolescents throughout Eastern and Southern Africa,” said officials.
The governments have set out a target to reduce early and unintended pregnancy by 75 percent by 2020. – XINHUA