Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago on Wednesday expressed concern at the low level of contraceptive use, which results in Mozambique's high fertility rate (5.2 births for every woman of childbearing age, according to the 2017 population census).
Speaking at a ceremony in Maputo to mark World Contraception Day, Tiago said that a lower birth rate would allow improvements in the quality of health care, universal education, food security and more job opportunities.
According to the 2015 survey on indicators for immunisation, malaria and HIV/AIDS in Mozambique, the use of modern contraceptives among adolescents between 15 and 19 years old was only 14.1 per cent, rising to 26.3 per cent among 20-24 year old youths. The same survey found that almost 50 per cent of all women aged between 15 and 19 were already mothers, or were pregnant for the first time.
The evidence shows that access to contraceptives can reduce unplanned pregnancies by 73 per cent and deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth by 35 per cent.
Tiago lamented that many adolescent girls continue to lose their opportunity to continue their studies, and interrupt their dreams, because they started sexual activity too early. This behaviour, he added, exposes adolescents to unwanted pregnancies and to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
He pointed out that health care has costs, not only for the adolescents themselves, but also for those who look after them, including the State.
"The cost is not money", said Tiago, "but early responsibilities, which imply interrupting school, finding a source of income to sustain the family, and creating social conditions for maintaining physical, emotional and psychological well-being".
The Minister urged parents and guardians, as well as health providers, to facilitate access to essential and correct information on sexual and reproductive health care. He stressed that this information is of crucial importance so that young people can take informed and responsible decisions.
Addressing adolescents, Tiago said "you should know that your first sexual relation will define your life, your future. The moment should be delayed until you are of the recommended age. It is your choice and it should be made responsibly and without pressure".
The representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Monique Mosolf, speaking on behalf of all the Health Ministry's cooperation partners, recognised the impact that improved family planning could have on the life of Mozambicans.
"As partners, we want to appeal to young men and women to make healthy choices about their future and that of their families", she said. "Our support to the Mozambican government helps provide not only contraceptives, but also counselling and other assistance for making healthy choices".