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Social groups report spike in early pregnacies in Ghana

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NIPAH DENNIS/AFP or licensors

Coronavirus

The number of early pregnancies in Ghana, which was already high before the pandemic, increased sharply with the arrival of Covid-19. One of the reasons for this was the 10-month closure of schools, one of the longest in Africa.

In 2020, the pandemic prevented 12 million women worldwide from accessing contraceptives or family planning services, leading to 1.4 million unwanted pregnancies, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced last week.

In Ghana, there are no official statistics, but women's groups estimate that 14% of girls under 19 become pregnant in their teens.

Since the government shut down high schools a year ago to fight the coronavirus, the number of early pregnancies has increased dramatically, says Sarah Lotus Asare, a volunteer worker with disadvantaged teenagers.

While sexual activity among adolescents has increased, the vast majority are not using any form of contraception. According to a Ghanaian health survey, in 2020, only 18.6 percent of sexually active adolescents were using contraception.

Abortion is not an option in this highly religious country either.

Voluntary termination of pregnancy (VTP) is only allowed in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment, or danger to the physical or mental health of the mother.

The lack of sex education in Ghana is a structural problem, warns Esi Prah, a member of the NGO Marie Stopes, which is working with the government to develop family planning.

"In general, Ghanaians are rather hostile to the very idea of sex education," she laments. "Some think it encourages teenage sex, and that the best contraceptive is abstinence."

In 2019, an attempt by the government and the UN to launch a sex education program had caused an uproar. Conservative and religious groups had denounced a "satanic" attempt to promote "LGBT values." The program was eventually abandoned.