Malawi: Pandemic Pregnancy Crisis
In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, another crisis is unfolding in Malawi. With schools closed, people out of work and economic pressure mounting, there has been a sharp rise in early pregnancies.
The COVID-19 battle is far from over, but the rise in teenage pregnancies will have repercussions long after the cloud of coronavirus has passed. Your support today will help protect the health and future of teenage girls in Malawi.
When Malawi’s schools closed due to COVID-19 there was no remote learning. Parents who rely on daily farming work to feed their families can’t work from home.
Asale is 15 years old. When her school closed she had nothing to do and so she spent more time with her 17-year-old boyfriend.
“I went there not knowing that we are going to have sex. We started chatting, as usual. Suddenly he started asking for sex. I tried to refuse but he convinced me that we were young and nothing can happen. After a month I missed my period.”
This is how Asale shared her story when she arrived at Mulanje Mission Hospital three months pregnant. She’d been worried about telling her mother and had considered an abortion instead. Abortion is illegal in Malawi and Asale would have been putting her life on the line. With her sister’s support, she found the courage to tell her mother.
“I was so afraid but I thank my sister who was very supportive. Otherwise, I could have committed suicide.”
Nurses at Mulanje Mission Hospital counselled Asale and her mother. Her mother confided that life wasn’t easy raising 5 children alone since Asale’s father had died. “Asale was my hope since her elder sister got pregnant two years ago. I thought Asale would do better with school.”
In Malawi, early pregnancy usually means an end to education and the opportunity for girls to pursue their own hopes for the future. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Mulanje Mission Hospital is supporting Asale through her pregnancy. They will help Asale and the family to prepare so that once the baby has been delivered and it is safe to do so, Asale can return to school. Completing her education will give Asale and her young baby the best chance in life.
With your help, the Teenage Pregnancy Programme at Mulanje Mission Hospital can grow and respond to the critical situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support will help young people make choices that protect their health and their future. You can help girls like Asale continue in education when schools reopen, and allow them to pursue their own hopes for the future.
How you can help
COVID-19 has closed schools in Malawi for a second time meaning girls are facing an increased risk of childhood pregnancy. Childhood is an important time of development, learning and fun. It is vital that we safeguard the opportunities of childhood during the strains of this pandemic.
Reshaping rituals to safeguard girls from harmful practices.
Once part of the problem, traditional rituals are now being used to champion change thanks to the growing commitment of traditional leaders to protect girls. Your support will allow continued work with traditional leaders to advocate for the safety of girls.
£13 trains a traditional counsellor to defend girls’ rights through the pandemic and beyond.
Pregnancy during childhood can have devastating lifelong consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health. It is no exaggeration to say the lives of both the child-mother and baby are at risk.
Helping girls and boys to protect their own health.
It is vital to act early, especially during this pandemic, to stop girls’ health and lives from being put at risk. Talking to girls and boys directly helps them to make better, safer choices.
£40 helps healthcare workers reach one school with potentially life-saving information on sexual health.
Early pregnancy forces girls out of school for at least a year and many aren’t able to return. With the early burden of unplanned motherhood and without education girls are unable to pursue their own hopes for the future.
Protecting opportunities for girls education.
Pregnancy shouldn’t mean an end to a girl’s aspirations. Helping girls stay in school or to go straight to vocational training rather than early marriage makes it less likely that they will get pregnant.
£105 funds education or vocational training for a girl or a young mother, restoring her hope for the future.