The Institute of Policy Analysis and Research(IPAR-Rwanda) with funding from the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) is conducting a nation-wide study on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Response Strategies in Rwanda covering the period 2017-2021.
The general objective of the study is to comprehensively assess the magnitude and prevalence, drivers, perceptions and experiences of adolescent pregnancy, gaps in data and current interventions in addressing adolescent pregnancy and to consequently support knowledge and evidence generation to contribute towards strengthening national efforts and propose strategies to prevent and respond to adolescent pregnancy in Rwanda.
The study’s specific objectives are to :
• Assess the magnitude and prevalence of adolescent pregnancy ;
• Identify contributing factors of adolescent pregnancy ;
• Document experiences of pregnant adolescents, adolescent mothers and their families ;
• Identify challenges faced by pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers including and in relation to access to social services, reporting and referral ;
• Explore perceptions of pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers, teachers, and Isange one stop center staff, health care providers and men/boys, parents, community health workers, Faith Based Organizations and others ;
• Identify key actors involved in adolescent pregnancy prevention and response efforts ;
• Analyze current laws, policies, practices, and strategies on adolescents’ pregnancy prevention and response.
The study is divided into quantitative and qualitative data collection phases. The quantitative data collection phase which started at the end of 2022 and progressed to early 2023 has already been completed after covering 3300 households in all the 30 districts in Rwanda. Quantitative data collection targeted girls only between the age of 10 to 19 years.
The findings from the quantitative data collection phase are being discussed with all the stakeholders including UNFPA Rwanda. The second phase, which will involve qualitative data collection, will start after results of the first phase have been validated. Qualitative data will further enrich the study by indicating the views of the respondents.
The challenge of Adolescent pregnancy in Rwanda
Adolescent pregnancy is one of the global public health problems that affect females in low and high income countries, mostly aged 15 - 19 years. Affected girls especially in low-income countries face unprecedented challenges including social, educational, economic, health, well-being and rights.
Adolescent pregnancies furthermore contribute to overall demographic growth worldwide with implications for access to social services and the realization of critical human rights. The increasing birth rate among adolescent girls requires relevant policies as well as targeted and multidimensional interventions.
According to the World Health Organization(WHO), every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth, while 95% of the world’s births to adolescents (girls aged 15-19) take place in low- and middle-income countries.
In Rwanda the magnitude of adolescent pregnancies is a national challenge.
According to the Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2019-2020 by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the proportion of adolescent girls who became pregnant rose rapidly with age, from less than 1% at age 15 to 15% at age 19 compared to 1% at age 15 and 20% at age 19 in DHS 2014/15 while there is a decline nonetheless the change remains low. However, there is a likelihood that pregnancy among early adolescents is less reported.
Adolescent childbearing has existed in Rwanda for several decades. The adolescent pregnancy rates in Rwanda steadily increased from 6.1% in 2010 to 7.3% in 2015 (RDHS 2015), with a slight decline to 5.2% in 2020 (RDHS 2020). In 2017, Rwanda Biomedical Center(RBC) counted 17,000 adolescent pregnancies and in 2021, they had reached 23,000 (RBC) countrywide.