SO about 54 school-going girls in Chinsali district fell pregnant last year during the period of school premature closure as the result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak!
Luckily, the 54 girls have been enrolled back to their various schools within Chinsali, according to the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) Pardon Tesho.
That aside, the mere revelation of such high number of girls falling pregnant in one year is telling to say the least, even if we are not told about the regular pattern.
It shows the many facets of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on society in general.
It would, therefore, be unwise for anyone to take the figures from Chinsali as an isolated case, which has no bearing to the national picture, because some other districts could similar or even worse situations, who knows!
At the peak of the first-wave of the pandemic in Zambia in August last year, Senior Chief Chiwala of the Lamba speaking people in Masaiti, about 730 kilometres away from Chinsali had expressed sadness at the increase in teen pregnancies and early marriages.
The two vices were attributed to the prolonged closure of schools, particularly for non-examination classes, due COVID-19.
The traditional leader said children in non-examination classes who were at home at that time engaged in illicit sexual activities and ended up being pregnant while others got married.
Efforts to fight teen pregnancies and early marriages in many chiefdoms at that time were not yielding results as many girls were home, doing nothing.
Indeed, the prolonged closure of schools had a huge impact on efforts to curb early child marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
Some of the offshoots of the situation are those evident in Chinsali and other areas.
Our survey last year also showed that COVID-19 had a huge impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning (SRH/FP) generally.
Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) there was a general decline in access to SRH/FP services with a lot of unmet women’s contraception needs in Zambia, leading to unwanted pregnancies.
A survey conducted by Times of Zambia in Lusaka, Eastern and the Copperbelt provinces then showed that some women had not been having access to SRH/FP services due to COVID-19–related factors.
While the country may not have carried a comprehensive research on the full and exact impact of the COVID-19 on this sector, up to now, it is apparent that it is quite huge.
This is in line with international projections made last year.
For instance, Marie Stopes International projected a modest 10-per cent decline access to the provision of SRH services, leaving 49 million women with an unmet need for contraception with between seven and 15 million additional unintended pregnancies, globally.
For a long time to come, well after COVID-19 is long gone, if it will go at all, society will continue counting the cost of the virus’ effects on humanity.
Indeed, some indirect consequences of the virus could be far reaching and could outlive the current generation.
There is, therefore, need to have a multifaceted research to quantify and ascertain the exact ramifications of this virus as everyone learns to live under the ‘new normal’ to minimise the recognisable risks.