Jump in teen pregnancies due to COVID lockdowns, school closures, Parly told

Figures show that nearly 87,000 babies were delivered to girls aged between 10 and 19 in public health facilities in 2017 and that this number rose to more than 136,000 in 2020.

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CAPE TOWN - The rate of early and unintended pregnancies among young girls and women in South Africa remains unacceptably high, Parliament has been told.

The number of teen pregnancies has been rising year-on-year and spiked during the hard lockdown against COVID-19 when there was also a big increase in reported cases of gender-based violence.

Figures show that nearly 87,000 babies were delivered to girls aged between 10 and 19 in public health facilities in 2017 and that this number rose to more than 136,000 in 2020.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been briefing Parliament’s Basic Education committee on the issue.

The department’s Dr Granville Whittle said that the jump in the number of teenage pregnancies was due largely to the COVID pandemic lockdowns and school closures, which kept girls out of school.

“The numbers remain unacceptably high,” Whittle said.

Whittle said that more than 30% of teenage girls fell pregnant, with more than 65% of these pregnancies unplanned, while one-third of teen mothers were unlikely to return to school.

“If we look at the percentage of adolescents who gave birth in 2020 by province, it shows you that the Northern Cape has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and Gauteng has the lowest rate at 1.98%,” he explained.

Whittle said that remaining in school, with access to education and support, was the best protection for adolescent girls.

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