Health officials in Chiradzulu District have said cultural factors and long distances to health facilities are some of the reasons preventing youths from accessing family planning services.
The observation was made on Wednesday in Traditional Authority (T/A) Ntchema during an open day to showcase youth friendly health services.
Speaking at the function, Chiradzulu family planning coordinator Joseph Somanje said it is worrisome to note that youths in the district do not go to hospitals to access reproductive health services due to cultural factors and long distances to health facilities.
He said: “Some cultures deny youths from accessing contraceptive methods. They discourage them that if they start using them they will not bear children in future.
“We are trying to sensitise the youth and parents that these are just myths and misconceptions. Use of contraceptives has a number of benefits. They prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections [STIs] and teenage pregnancies, among others.”
Somanje said long distance to health facilities is bringing back the efforts in reaching out to as many youths as possible.
In his remarks, T/A Ntchema said they have developed by-laws with fellow traditional leaders aimed at punishing parents whose children get pregnant while in school.
“Looking at the fact that most of our children were dropping out of schools due to pregnancies, we sat down with fellow leaders in the area and amended by-laws which we are implementing.
“For instance, if a girl has been impregnated, both parents [of the boy and girl] have to pay a goat each,” he said.
During the function, 150 youths went for HIV testing and counselling and another 130 accessed family planning services. n