Zvamaida Murwira and Blessings Chidakwa
President Mnangagwa has bemoaned the high maternal mortality rate in the country and called for investment in strengthening the skills of midwives and doctors as well as the supply of essential medical equipment to avert such deaths.
The Head of State and Government also warned those involved in child marriages, saying offenders risked incarceration.
He said this yesterday in his address during World Population Day commemorations which coincided with the official opening of Tariro Clinic and Youth Centre in Hopley, Harare South District.
The clinic and youth centre were constructed through partnership by Harare City Council, Lafarge Cement and development partners such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We remain concerned with the high maternal mortality in Zimbabwe, with 651 deaths for every 100 000 live births.
“As Government we take note of this and we are committed to ensuring safe motherhood through a number of ways, including investing in strengthening the skills of midwives and doctors, the supply of essential medical equipment to avert such deaths,” he said.
The President said it had come to his attention that most young people in Hopley were getting married before reaching 18.
“We now have a law that criminalises that practice. We want both boys and girls to compete their academic studies and should you plan a family that should happen at the appropriate age. Those who commit that offence will be sent to Chikurubi (Maximum Security Prison),” said President Mnangagwa.
He said all age groups should uphold high moral standards.
“To date our country has managed to reduce new infections and AIDS-related deaths by 50 percent since 2010. We, therefore, need to continue working together for the attainment of global goal of zero new infections by 2030,” he said.
He hailed development partners saying with their continued support, the country will conduct a population census in 2022 and enhance planning methodology.
“The population census will provide sufficient demographic, social and economic data concerning the population of Zimbabwe,” he said.
President Mnangagwa pledged commitment to access to health for everyone, saying the Government will ensure that women and young people lead a healthier life, free from violence.
“Great strides have been made since 1994 and my Government will ensure that no one is left behind. We remain committed to implement policies that stimulate economic growth, development, poverty reduction and the attainment of Vision 2030 as well as our quest to achieve SDG number 8 on decent work and economic growth,” he said.
“My Government recognises the need to integrate solutions to emerging population and development. In this regard, plans are in place to ensure that Zimbabwe benefits from the demographic dividend.”
He also outlined Government achievement since independence on social services.
“To date the country recorded successes in the following areas: education, gender equality and women empowerment, HIV and Aids, sexual reproductive health, family planning and governance of population and development issues,” he said.
“Zimbabwe’s literacy rate stands at over 90 percent and is one of the highest in Africa. Investments will be enhanced in the following areas of education, health, economic empowerment and governance for us to fulfil the International Conference on population and development commitments and reap a demographic dividend.”
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube said Zimbabwe’s population was projected to reach 27 million by 2050 with 52 percent expected to be women.
He said there was need to invest in skills, reproductive health and create more opportunities for the youths.
“We have 200 000 people in Hopley of which 65 000 are youths, and we have 21 percent involved in teenage pregnancies, 18 percent in child marriage; things that we want to put behind us and clearly this Tariro Centre is part of that process,” said Prof Ncube.
Speaking at the same occasion, United Nations resident coordinator, Ambassador Bishow Parajuli said the world body remain committed to supporting Zimbabwe to ensure that it attained its Sustainable Development Goals.
He commended development partners that came on board to ensure the success of the clinic and youth centre saying it exemplified partnership for betterment of citizens.
“I am proud that the UN in Zimbabwe is part of such a great cooperation for the betterment of communities and citizens. The launch of the clinic and youth centre are a good example of progress being made by Zimbabwe, despite the remarkable progress the dream of ICD (International Conference on Population and Development) has remained distant for some women and girls in Zimbabwe as we still have high maternal deaths, high teenage pregnancies, gender based violence. Let’s work together as stakeholders as no women should die of preventable deaths,” said Ambassador Parajuli.
Sweden embassy representative, Mr Martin Jonrud said they were deeply impressed by young women who participated in the construction of the clinic and youth centre.
The event was attended by Government Ministers, diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, development partners and captains of industry among others.