Early and unintended pregnancy in Eastern and Southern Africa: analysis of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights policies

Case Studies & Research
5 p.
Periodical title
BMJ Global Health, 9(4): e013929.

In 2019, there were 21 million pregnancies among adolescents aged 15–19 years globally; close to half of these pregnancies were unintended. Early and unintended pregnancy (EUP) remains a pressing concern with severe socioeconomic and health outcomes for adolescent girls aged 15–19 years, their offspring and society. In Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), Zambia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Uganda have adolescent fertility rates (AFR) of more than 100 live births per 1000 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years. Ministers of Health and Education, through the ESA Ministerial Commitment, aimed to reduce EUP by 75% by 2020; the renewed ESA Ministerial Commitment aims to reduce EUP by 40% by 2030. This descriptive policy content analysis assesses the prioritisation of EUP within adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR) policies. An assessment of nine countries in the region shows that EUP is a key policy priority among countries; however, other than Kenya, the majority of ASRHR policies in the region do not set out clear and costed interventions for EUP, and few have monitoring and evaluation frameworks in place. Despite AFRs declining in Kenya and strong policies in place, the gains made are at risk due to the rollback on SRHR, and the country has not renewed the ESA Ministerial Commitment. This policy content analysis points towards the gaps we are still to meet within the universal health coverage agenda: better planning, prioritisation, sound policy frameworks and longterm commitments to meet the needs of adolescents.