Zambia’s First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba has urged policy makers to pay attention to sexually active adolescents who she said are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections due to a lack of knowledge about sex, reproductive health and relations.
Dr Kaseba, who made the comments during a post-London Family Planning Summit workshop, said Zambia needs to pay attention to the reproductive health of the burgeoning youth population, especially as 80% of women admitted to healthcare facilities with abortion complications are younger than 19.
“It is only logical to project that maternal morbidity and mortality resulting from unsafe abortion will rise with the increasing young demographics unless targeted interventions are introduced,” she said.
“Family planning saves lives. Of all the millennium development goals, one of the most off-track MDG and yet most important is the reduction of maternal mortality by three quarters.”
The First Lady said Zambia’s fertility rate has remained at 6.2 births per woman for the last 15 years, one of the highest in the world, and that unplanned pregnancy was common in the country.
“Women with no education have almost four times more children than women with more than secondary education. The poorest women have more than twice as many children as women who live in the wealthiest households.
“A bigger household with little resources perpetuate the poverty cycle in a family from generation to generation. To break the poverty cycle, families ought to plan the desired number of children they are able to nurture [and] protect, and provide better education to the children and their children’s children.”
She said the London Family Planning Summit, which was held on 11 July 2012 and in which Zambia participated, raised the projected US$4.3 billion required – and an additional US$2.6 billion was also committed by donors – to finance developing countries’ commitment to address the policy, financial and delivery barriers to women when it comes to accessing contraceptive information, service and supplies.
Dr Joseph Katema, Minister for Community Development, Mother and Child Health, also present at the workshop, said the government is dedicated to enhancing access to, and utilisation of, essential lifesaving interventions including those aimed at addressing the unmet need for family planning.