Teen pregnancies, child marriages rife in farming areas Anna with community members.

Fungai Lupande-Mashonaland Central Bureau

At five months, twin infants Natasha and Natalia weigh slightly above two kilogrammes because their teen mum, Anna Makiyi (18) is not lactating.

Anna developed post-partum cardiomyopathy, a heart condition associated with pregnancy or giving birth.

Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease and usually happens when the heart chambers enlarge, weakening the heart muscles.

The disease causes swelling of the legs and abdomen due to fluid build-up in organs like the lungs and liver.

Anna is now under the care of her parents at Luwali Farm in Mvurwi and cannot breast feed her babies.

She also cannot afford to buy infant formula.

So dire is the situation that Anna’s mother, Susan Rancho, sometimes puts more water in the formula milk for it to last more days. 

Anna fell pregnant while doing Form 3 at Luwali Farm. After eloping she realised that her boyfriend had also impregnated another girl.

Realising her daughter’s poor living conditions in the polygamous union, Anna’s mother took her back.

“After realising that my daughter was struggling in the polygamous union, I decided to take her back.

“In December last year, while pregnant, Anna started swelling and she gave birth through a caesarean section on January 11. The swelling continued and we were advised that she had developed a heart condition. 

“The man who impregnated her is not assisting with the upkeep of the babies or medical bills. While Anna was admitted to Mvurwi Hospital, we met a nurse, Sister Sharon Marume, who became our guardian angel,” she said.

Sister Sharon Maruma

According to the doctors, Anna’s heart is surrounded by water, which has to be drained. 

She has so far made two trips to the hospital to have the water drained.

The mother of the twins is bedridden and cannot bath on her own. Her mother has stopped going to work at the farm to care for Anna and the twins. 

Sister Maruma was concerned about Anna’s plight to the extent of assisting through the provision of diapers and infant formula.

Anna needs medication for her heart condition and Sister Marume also chipped in and bought injections and pills to last for two months.

Sister Maruma said nursing was a calling , and sometimes one has to go out of their way to assist those in need.

“What I am doing for this family is not part of my daily duties at the hospital but I lose sleep thinking of Anna and the babies. I put myself in the family’s shoes and imagine my daughter, Ropafadzo, in this predicament.

“I went an extra mile and started approaching organisations, highlighting Anna’s plight. I urge my colleagues to have humility and put patients first.

“Sometimes we lack the motive due to life’s challenges but this should not stop us from spreading love. I urge other nurses to have compassionate love and feel for one another,. 

Sister Maruma engaged different organisations, including the Twin Association of Zimbabwe (TAZI), Centenary Area Youths Empowerment (CAYE) and traditionalist, Sekuru Gwandu, born Tichaona Mafara, to assist Anna.

Last week, the organisation mobilised infant formula, diapers, baby clothes, foodstuffs and money for Anna and the babies.

Handing over the goods, Sekuru Gwandu said assisting people does not only end at his traditional counsel, but includes extending a helping hand.

“I don’t have much, but sharing the little I have is who I am. 

“The situation at this house is bad. The young mother is sick and in need of assistance. The parents are farm workers and do not earn much. Let’s join hands and help this family,” he said.

TAZI official, Mr Daniel Mavhumba Moyo said the organisation was working with gynaecologists to minimise complications associated with multiple births.

He thanked Sister Maruma for her kind heart and said they were working with hospitals, encouraging them to provide specialised care to mothers expecting multiple births. 

CAYE secretary general, Mr Kelvin Muremba, said teen pregnancies were high in Mvurwi.

He said cases of teen pregnancies, child labour and child marriages were common in farm compounds. 

“Some of the children in the compounds are not going to school due to lack of resources. In such cases the girl child then opts for marriage.

“We are trying to empower youths to be self-motivated and change their lives. We are also sourcing funding for things like sanitary pads to help the girl child,” he said. 

Struggling to talk, Anna thanked the people who came to assist her.

“My health has deteriorated after giving birth to the twins. When I walk I fall short of breath; the doctors say my heart is pumping water to my stomach. 

“I cannot breastfeed my babies and they rely on baby formula, due to the disease. I never thought you would come to help me.”

In Mashonaland Central, there is a high number of child marriages and teen pregnancies. 

Religious and cultural norms are also major key drivers of child marriages, according to the Zimbabwe Gender Commission.

The Government has committed to protecting children’s rights and has aligned several laws with the Constitution. 

These laws protect children from sexual exploitation, child labour, child marriages and any forms of abuse.

The Marriages Act and Guardianship of Minors Act are some of the laws that provide this protection. 

The Marriages Act prohibits child marriages, while the Guardianship of Minors Act removes the power of the guardian to consent to the marriage of a minor.

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