The Sunday Mail
The National AIDS Council has made frantic efforts to rescue Rushinga district in Mashonaland Central province, which is currently ravaged by the scourge of high school drop-outs and child marriages, through a cocktail of measures like Parent-to-Child Communication and setting up of youth centres in the province.
Rushinga is one of the hotspot districts in Mashonaland Central in terms of high school drop-outs and child marriages.
National AIDS Council Rushinga district AIDS Coordinator Eric Taramusi said the problem of child marriages, sexual transmitted infections and school drop-outs is a cause of concern.
“For 2017 only, we had school drop-outs of over 900 in this district; from those school drop-outs, over 18 per cent are due to early pregnancies, an issue which we are trying to avoid in this district,” said Taramusi.
In 2016 alone, over 4 500 minors dropped out of school countrywide due to early marriages.
Currently, Government is weighing the possibility of strengthening law enforcement to contain the challenge.
“As the National AIDS Council, we are engaging the youths so that we can capacitate them to understand the issue of early marriages and their consequences. That’s the reason why we are having these community information centres to give awareness to our communities about HIV, STIs and issues affecting young people in this area,” added Taramusi.
“Child marriages are one of the big problems in our district and we have hotspots in the area like Chapinduka, Kamanyika and Rushinga Growth Point. That is the reason why you see us as the National AIDS Council coming up with all these cocktail of measures to combat these challenges,” he said.
Rushinga district is among areas in Mashonaland Central province with high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, which is currently fuelled by heavy presence of artisanal miners in the area.
In Mashonaland Central province, the National AIDS Council is working with a number of partners, including Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention and Support Organisation, in the implementation of Parent-to-Child Communication programme, which is currently supported by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Parent-to-Child Communication programme, dubbed PCC, was initiated to facilitate and initiate communication between parents and their children in matters of sexual reproductive health in Mashonaland Central province.
According to UNICEF, access to education and social protection programmes have a direct impact on likelihood of child labour, especially in poorer communities.
These interventions have proven to be essential in mitigating the social and economic vulnerabilities that lead families to resort to child labour.
NAC and its partners continues to call for strengthening of HIV prevention strategies, which include HIV Testing and Counselling, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission, HIV treatment, zero discrimination, no gender-based violence and condom use, among others.