The ongoing crisis has not only bore hardship on the people of the NW and SW regions but has increased the sexual activity of young girls and boys, thereby exposing them to teenage pregnancies.
Since the crisis started in 2016, schools and other activities that kept youths occupied have been suspended. Most youths have moved into the bushes, either as “freedom fighters” or IDPs, thereby becoming invisible. This set of youths have little or no access to contraceptives, leaving the girls vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies, STDs and other related diseases.
Some teenage pregnancies are the end product of rape. From June – August 2019, over 60 related rape pregnancies have been recorded at the Mount Mary hospital Buea.
Mah Cecilia Kongla an administrator of Mount Mary hospital in the South West region of Cameroon, says teenage pregnant girls aged 15 – 21, from hostile communities come to the hospital empty handed, expecting the hospital to take care of them.
“I call them ‘invisible girls’, because we don’t know where they come from. We learnt they practice group sex in their communities. We don’t insist on knowing where they come from because our concern is to take care of the mother and baby,” Cecilia said.
These girls are exposed to diseases that are dangerous to them and their babies.
“When we run their lab tests, they are diagnosed with malnutrition, severe malaria, HIV, anemia and STDs. Unfortunately we can’t get to their partners to treat them. And it is difficult to do follow up, make sure they have safe deliveries and take care of their babies,” she said.
Doctors Without Borders stepped in to pay their bills, but the girls are still in need of cloths amongst other basic items, with that of the baby.
“It is a big challenge for us as we need to provide them the special care they need. Some deny leaving the hospital after treatment because they need love and care,” Cecilia said.
Apart from struggling to handle issues with funding and lack of medical supplies, the hospital still has to tackle with lock downs which make mobility difficult.
“On Mondays, we open our doors because you don’t know what can happen. We have only one ambulance that move on such days to bring in emergency cases.
“There is a population I call Monday children because they were born prematurely on Mondays, due to pressure and tension from the environment. No Monday has passed without us delivering babies,” Cecilia added.
Assistance has been pouring in from Doctors Without Borders, World Health Organization and Red Cross. UNFPA provided delivery kits for those who can’t prepare to receive their babies.
Despite the support received, Mah Cecilia says more funds and supplies are needed to help more of these invisible girls.
This raises issues affecting SDG 3 as teenage pregnancies constitute a serious health and social problem worldwide.
By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie