By Petronella Sibeene
Teenage pregnancy at Osire refugee camp continues to skyrocket with a startling 123 cases in the age group thirteen to nineteen being reported last year alone.
Located about 230 kilometres outside Windhoek, the Osire Refugee Camp is home to about 8 000 African refugees, the bulk of them or 75 percent from once war-torn Angola.
Cases of pregnant girls as young as thirteen years from Osire Primary School are being reported, New Era learnt last Wednesday.
The culprits, according to Dr Mpelo Victoire, are fellow learners while the majority of the victims are aged between the age groups fourteen and seventeen.
“The issue of teenage pregnancy is worrisome. The region (Otjozondjupa) should work out a strategy to address this problem urgently,” said the Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi, who on Wednesday visited the refugee camp.
The Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba is expected to visit the camp soon where he will address learners on this pressing issue that results in girls dropping out of the formal education system.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is in the process of creating an awareness club for the youths where they will engage in activities that promote abstinence, said UNHCR Country Representative Joyce Mend-Cole.
Victoire told the minister that family planning facilities exist at Osire health centre but teenagers are not eager to make use of them.
There are 32 points within the camp where condoms can be accessed for free, Victoire said.
One of the community members commented that cultural issues contribute largely to this disturbing situation. Some cultures are reported to see nothing wrong for a teenager to engage in sexual relations.
“I remain extremely concerned. I will brief the minister of education on what is happening,” said Kamwi.
According to the health minister, some of these cultural beliefs should not be tolerated.
“There is need to learn from other cultures. We want to see these children go to school and by the time they return to their home countries, they practise good behaviour that can be emulated by others,” he said.
Government is prepared to educate the youth because they are expected to contribute meaningfully when they return to their home countries, the minister added.
He urged learners to concentrate on their studies and obtain qualifications that will enable them to excel in life.
He further urged learners not to waste time indulging in unacceptable behaviour. The minister stressed that teachers instil a sense of discipline in their learners.
“Whether you are here to stay or leaving, your future will be determined by education, or forget,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, HIV Community Councillor Bibich Mwenze said refugees are more willing to go for testing for HIV following awareness programmes being put in place.
She said the counselling department receives about 50 testing volunteers every month.
Usually, one in ten persons tested for HIV are found positive, she revealed to the minister.
Looking at the gender aspect, both men and women are willing to go for testing today compared to the past when only women seemed keen to know their health status.
Meanwhile, the rolling out of anti-retroviral drugs continues.
Last year, the Osire Health Centre had 46 patients on ARVs. Of these, three defaulted and one died.
The minister revealed that countrywide, the ARV rollout recorded a 72 percent success rate, two percent defaulters while five percent of the people died from the disease.