Rachel Masanga is a Standard 5 drop out currently pregnant. Her life is going through hell. At 15, she is already facing maternal complications befitting the age of her mother.
It is over three months now since she walked into the maternity ward at Thyolo District Hospital to await her labour.
When she arrived, the nurses told her that she would only deliver through caesarian section. She froze with fear. The subsequent experience vindicated her fright.
Discharge of fluid with blood stains was her ticket into early admission to the maternity ward at the district referral facility.
“I am always afraid when I think of the situation I am now,” says Masanga.
The sight of teen mothers like Masanga has sadly become all too familiar in Thyolo.
A walk from the main market at the Boma to the District Council’s offices takes you to a strange glimpse of teenage girls, walking leisurely or basking in the sun along the hospital’s fence. Nearly all of them are in wrappers up their breasts, with bare backs.
The way they lift their legs to push their weighty bodies forward tells it all that this is a struggle.
For Masanga, it is all night mares. She confesses that she never envisaged that labour is such a painful journey especially for young girls like her.
“I don’t know when I shall deliver. I wish it came today so that I forget all the troubles. I am too young for what I am going through,” she says.
This is the situation with most girls who come for antenatal or waiting for delivery at Thyolo District Hospital. Almost all the girls are underaged, dropped out of school at primary level and experience a great deal of pregnancy complications. Only fate has the power to determine whether they would deliver normally or not.
About 38 in every 100 pregnant mothers at Thyolo District Hospital are teenagers.
Mirriam Windo, in-charge of the labour ward at the facility, says the rate of teenage pregnancies in the district is so alarming, resulting in increased numbers of stillbirths and deaths of newly born babies.
She says pregnant teenagers are always under huge risks of maternal complications because their bodies are not mature enough for the process of giving birth.
“Most teenage pregnancies end up in operation theatre for caesarian section,” Windo points out.
Thyolo district is on the move to reduce deaths of newly born babies. And it has started with measures to stop the proliferation of teenage pregnancies.
In February this year, Unicef launched ‘Every Child Alive’ campaign in Thyolo. The aim is to ensure that every new born baby in the district is prevented from dying during or after birth.
The launch took place at Thyolo District Hospital in recognition of the facility’s significant strides towards such efforts.
Unicef’s partnerships specialist, Charlene Thompson, says the campaign was an opportunity for government and partners to raise awareness on the importance of preventing deaths of new born babies throughout the country.
“There is need to do more especially on child marriages, which results into early pregnancies and later into complicated deliveries,” Thompson says.
Thyolo District Health Officer (DHO), Arnold Jumbe says that the rate of the teenage pregnancies is high.
“Almost half of deliveries in the district’s hospitals are for teenagers, pegged at 37.7 in every 100 deliveries,” Jumbe laments.
To reverse the trend, he points out that the health sector is working with traditional leaders across the district, sensitizing communities on dangers of early marriages.
The campaign, Jumbe adds, creates an opportunity for the sector to intensify awareness in communities to curb early marriages and deal with teenage pregnancies for the successful prevention of neonatal deaths.