Young people make up the largest and fastest growing proportion of the general population in Malawi. According to most recent census data, 51% of the population is below 18 years.(1) Although many areas of life are found very challenging for a young person in Malawi, one of the major issues affecting young people is their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Many of these young people are at risk or already struggling with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV/AIDS.
As of January 2021, Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios globally– currently estimated at 439 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (in Canada, the ratio is 10 per 100,000). Approximately one in four teenage girls under the age of 18 is a mother. Becoming pregnant at this young age leads to complications during deliveries and puts them at greater risk for losing their babies, losing their own lives, or developing an obstetric fistula– a condition where a rupture in the birth canal leaves women suffering from incontinence and ostracized from their society. Adolescent pregnancies comprise 29% of all births and 15% of maternal deaths in Malawi.(2) As well, adolescent pregnancies are a hindrance to further education for many females, which leads to overall lower quality of life.
Instructing on sexual and reproductive health issues has become increasingly a priority for communities and FVM has partnered with instructors to initiate discussions aimed at engaging the youth in this area. This past month, 44 young people were brought together twice to instruct them in sexual and reproductive health issues, the goal being to provide community-based information so that adolescents have access to family planning and other reproductive services, as well as information on abstinence and sexually transmitted infections. For some insight, the following is some of the information shared with the youth:
SRHR services available in their nearest public health facilities
- Family planning
- HIV testing
- Antiretroviral therapy (ART)
- Antenatal clinic
- Labor and delivery
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic
- Long distances to facilities
- Shortage of drugs and other commodities
- Attitude of health workers
- Shame of being seen by parent’s friends
- Utilize the Health Services in the communities
- Utilize the youth friendly services available in the facilities