High rates of teen pregnancies have pushed Nkhata Bay District Council to revamp youth networks to acquaint boys and girls with sexual reproductive health (SRH) issues.
Speaking in Mpamba on Wednesday, district youth officer Samuel Gondwe said the council has revived 155 community-based youth clubs with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Despite a number of organisations and SRH interventions, our figures indicate that teen pregnancies are still an enormous challenge in the district,” he said.
The worrisome trend could be symptomatic of risky sexual tendencies which have left the shoreline district with the highest HIV prevalence rate in the Northern Region.
Nearly 11 in 100 people in Nkhata Bay are HIV positive, but the regional average is estimated at 6.6 percent.
“The pregnancies show adolescent girls are indulging in unprotected sex. This puts them at risk of HIV,” said Gondwe.
Council chairperson Beauty Banda attributed the situation to poverty, cultural practices and interaction with tourists visiting the shores of Lake Malawi.
“In summer, we usually have cultural festivals in which villagers visit each other to compete in malipenga dance. Come Christmas and New Year festivities, we usually have chilimika dances at night. During these events, most of the youth engage in sexual activities,” she said.
The youth constitute almost half of Nkhata Bay’s population of about 300 000, according to National Statistical Office projection.n