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Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti has revealed that pregnancy remains a major contributing factor of high rates of school dropout and grade repetition, especially among girls from les-privileged and rural communities in Botswana. Many of the girls who drop out of school reportedly never return to school due to stigma among others.
Dikoloti revealed this during a week’s long high level meeting by the ministry of health in partnership with UNFPA which convened members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on advancing sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The engagement, intended to recognise the cultural context in which individuals live and seek to address SRHR issues in a way that respects local traditions while upholding human rights principles and gender equality.
Speaking during the official opening of the meeting, Dikoloti noted that SRHR indicators among adolescents and young people are also stagnated citing that adolescent Birth Rate (ABR) was estimated at 39 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years in 2019. Although the ABR is lower than the global average of 44, Dikoloti noted that it remains high.
He further lamented that while new HIV infections have declined, infections remain high among adolescent girls and young people. The minister stated that the high rate of new infections is associated with early sexual debut, Gender Based Violence (GBV), limited access to SRH information and services as well as unequal power relations from social, economic and cultural factors that influence age disparate relationships.
He further revealed that maternal mortality rate has fluctuated between 156.6 per 100,000 live births in 2016 and 240.0 per 100,000 live births in 2021. Additionally, Dikoloti indicated that only 24 percent of school going adolescents report to have used contraceptives.
Speaking during the meeting Ngami District Health Management Team (DHMT) Coordinator Dr Sandra Maripe noted that in 2022 they recorded a total of 350 cases of teenage pregnancy in the district with the youngest being a 12-year-old.
She revealed that the district is also struggling with maternal deaths having recorded a total of 6 cases in 2022 and 4 this year with the youngest being a 20-year-old, adding the district is also faced with a number of sexually transmitted infections indicating that they register a total of 2000 case every quarter.