RUKWA Regional Consultative Committee (RCC) has approved a 2020-25 Strategic Plan draft in concerted efforts to eliminate early pregnancies in the region come 2030.
A 17 page draft was read by the Rukwa Regional Medical Officer (RMO) Dr Boniface Kasululu during the RCC meeting held here and chaired by Regional Commissioner (RC) Joachim Wangabo.
The decision of preparing the draft was reached during the stakeholders meeting held here on September 30, this year.
It was coordinated and funded by Plan International Tanzania which is working jointly with Jhpiego and Africare funding by Canadian government .
During the meeting which was chaired by Mr Wangabo, RMO was chosen to lead the committee that had prepared the draft.
"The high rate of early pregnancies in our region is worrisome as 29 per cent of teenage and school age children between 15 and 19 years old have either been impregnated or delivered babies .
According to latest statistics, Rukwa Region is projected to have 77,142 teenage girls aged between 15 and 19, out of whom 22,371 (29 per cent) have been impregnated or delivered babies.
Equally, the rate of early pregnancies for girls who are illiterate are higher by 50 per cent compared to 10 per cent of those who have gone to school and reached secondary school level," explained the RMO.
He further noted that available statistics show that during the period of three years (2017 -August 2019) 722 students terminated their studies due to pregnancy; among them 171 were primary school pupils and three of them were aged 11, 12 and 13, and 551 were secondary school students," added the RMO .
He further explained that the number of students who had been impregnated could be higher than the ones reported because the region did not have a reliable technique of following up reports of early pregnancies.
"It is obvious that the latest statistics of early pregnancies in our region could be lower," added the RMO.
"Similarly, the latest statistics illustrate that 24 per cent of those who reports for the first time at the clinics are teenage girls under 20 years of age; this shows that the community does not take issues of early pregnancies seriously," added the RMO.
The RMO mentioned major reasons for early pregnancies in the region as including poor education, poverty, high total fertility rate (TRF) and high rate of population growth, excessive drinking , traditions , briefs and customs which are abusing children and female learners living in rented accommodation due to lack of hostels, as well as gender based violence (GBV) .
In his closing remarks, the RC noted that 59 out of 339 villages had no primary schools while 25 wards in the region had no secondary schools, compelling children to walk for long distances to attend schools where they are available.