Stakeholders in health are raising critical questions about the way to go to properly address the age-old problem of teenage pregnancies in Ghana.
At a recent roundtable discussion on the causes and effects of teenage pregnancies in the Upper East Region on A1 Radio’s Day Break Upper East Show, the thoughts of resource persons were split almost down to the middle about whether the messages around the abstinence should continue to take the lead in the communication around reducing teenage pregnancies or rather, stakeholders must redefine their communication strategies and policies to embrace and scale-up issues related to contraception.
Speaking in favour of contraception, Patrick Anamoo, the Regional Secretary for the Coalition of NGOs in Health, explained that it may be time for the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to amend policy guidelines to allow the GHS to offer contraception to students in the school.
“From the Ghana Health Service and the policy guidelines, I know it is not allowed to do the family planning things in school. You can only do the education, you can talk to them to abstain, but you cannot administer [contraception].”
“From the Coalition of NGOs’ point of view, we think that that is not supposed to be the case. This is where the children are growing up; in the schools. Some of them even find it more comfortable to talk to some of their masters rather than their parents.”
Mr. Anamoo insisted that while the education on abstinence should not take a back seat, guidelines must be amended to allow the administering of contraception in schools.
“We are currently dealing with the situation in the communities but we need to blend the two. We need to look at the community approach and then the school approach and then bring all these factors together.”
Meanwhile, Mary Alosum, the Bolgatanga Municipal Girl Child Coordinator for the Ghana Education Service (GES) disagreed strongly with the idea of introducing contraception to the students in their schools.
She decried the long-term negative effects of contraception. “These things have negative effects. By the time you want to give birth, you will not be able to. Personally, I am highly against it. I know about the contraceptive. Some of them have been taking it. But when I go to the schools, I have been warning them of the consequences.”
“After some time when they are married and want to give birth and cannot do so, they should not blame any old man or woman sitting somewhere. Contraceptives have their own effects,” she said.
Another member of the panel discussion, Peter Ayamba, the Primary Health Coordinator of at the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese of the Catholic Health Service explained that as a health service provider within the context of Catholicism, it would always be a preferred option to continue to sensitize the children to the harmful effects of early sex.
Meanwhile, Mr. Anamoo insisted that “if the girl in question has already given birth, and is likely to give birth to another, what then do you do? You have to provide a safer alternative for her. I know about the implications of contraceptives for the health of girls. I am very aware. But they need safe alternatives,” he said.
“In cases where you are talking and they are not listening, you go for the other options. We cannot keep talking to someone who is not listening to us.”
The round table discussion was occasioned by a feature, Trapped on the Motherhood Web, written and produced by A1 Radio’s Moses Apiah with support from the Youth Harvest Foundation.
A survey by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) indicated that between 2016 and 2020 more than half a million Ghanaian girls aged 10 to 19 years were pregnant. The figure indicates that an average of over 111,000 teen pregnancies are recorded per year.
In the Upper East Region, statistics from the Service also indicated that in 2020 a total of 6,533 cases of teenage pregnancies were recorded. In 2021, the Catholic Health Service of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocesan Development Organisation also recorded over 5,000 teenage pregnancies within 10 months. The Bolgatanga Municipality recorded 11 percent of teenage pregnancies in 2020. This increased to 12 percent in the first half of the year 2021. The Sherigu Health facility recorded 25.7 percent of the overall figure while the Sumbrungu Health Centre recorded 22 percent of teenage pregnancies.
Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghanaa