A total of 150 young girls aged 10 to 14 have given birth in the past five months in the Free State.
Statistics from the provincial Health Department show that just over 14 000 teens aged between 15 and 19 gave birth in the past year.
There were also 2 100 pregnancy terminations recorded among those aged between 10 and 19.
The Free State Health Department says it has recorded an alarming amount of 150 births in just four months for girls aged between 10 and 14.
The South African Medical Research Council reports that even before the pandemic, 16% of young women aged 15 to 19 had begun giving birth.
The figure ranges between 11% in urban areas and 19% in rural areas.
In the Free State, the Thabo Mofutsanyana District recorded the highest cases of teenage pregnancy.
Spokesperson for Free State Department of Health, Mondli Mvambi says youth friendly zones and clinics cater for sex education for young people and encourages family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Mvambi elaborates on the alarming number of teenage pregnancies:
“We’ve got a high rate of children that are having children, from 10 years up until 12, from 13 years we see also up until 16 years children, the youth in teenage pregnancy.”
National programme officer of United Nations Educational (UNESCO), Scientific and Cultural Organisation , Buyiswa Mpini says challenges for accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services for this vulnerable age group is a cause for concern.
“Let’s talk to young men and men in general and ask what role can you play to protect our girls from falling pregnant, which is don’t rape our girls if you are engaging in relationships with our girls make sure you allow them to protect themselves. ”
Director of Life Skills prevention programme for the Education Department in the province, Bukelwa Qwelane has admitted that rape and abuse are often contributing factors to the high levels of teenage pregnancies.
“You will agree with me that issues of social economic status render learners vulnerable to pregnancies where learners are being abused, learners are being raped. The number that we see definitely there are statutory rapes where learners don’t consent to sexual engagements.”
Reproductive healthcare expert, Sebabatso Tsaoane says risks associated with pregnancies are elevated in teenagers.
“So in pregnancy what happens is that the women’s body has to cater for the need of the growing foetus so what happens in the case of a teenage pregnancy is the fact that the nutrients that are supposed to be used for the development of this specific teenager now have to be diverted to the growing foetus.”
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) reports that one factor that has contributed to this is violence against women and girls.
In South Africa, one in three women experience gender based-violence and one in five children under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse.
In June 2022, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu called on government departments to work together in addressing the scourge of high teenage pregnancies.
The minister was addressing young people from KwaMbonambi in Richards Bay, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Free State’s spike in teenage pregnancies: