A midwife has warned that scores of girls in Bongo, a district in the Upper East Region, are consuming “emergency pills” at an alarming rate and those involved in the intake of the birth-control drug risk struggling in vain to have a child when they need one later in life.
The emergency drug, according to her, should be swallowed just once in a year or once in a lifetime, but many girls in the district, in a bid to keep unwanted pregnancies at bay, are consuming it as many times as they have sexual intercourse in a week— putting themselves at the risk of losing their fertility before they know it.
Samata Adogbongo, a midwife at the Anafobisi Health Centre, a facility in that district, put the public on this notice when she engaged a number of teenage mothers and pregnant girls at a forum organised at the weekend by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) with funding support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of Canada.
“Emergency pills are not meant for family planning. Many of you go in for emergency pills. A lot. In a month in Bongo here, about 300, 400 doses of emergency pills are being dished out or sold out to the public and the majority of them (the consumers) are the young people. Don’t use emergency pills as a family planning method. It has an effect on you. It can cause a lot of damage,” she remarked.
The midwife spoke to Starr News on the sidelines of the event, explaining further what the emergency pill was meant for.
“Emergency pills are meant for only emergency situations where maybe you have had a failed method. Or maybe a method you are on, your days are up, you are supposed to take it but maybe your husband or partner has travelled and comes in at that night; you have no option than for you to meet. With that one, you can take the emergency pill to avoid unwanted pregnancy. And, then, in situations like rape and other things, you can use the emergency pill. They are meant to be used for a short period, maybe once every year, or, if possible, once in a lifetime. It is highly saturated and can cause sterility or fertility problems to a woman in the long run when it is consumed unreasonably.
“In Bongo here, every month we compile data from the chemical shops on family planning, like those who walk to the chemical shops to pick up family methods like condom, the pill and the other methods that can be provided over the counter. We’ve realised that the majority are taking up the emergency pill and the majority are adolescents. There are times I interact with chemical shop owners; they tell you that there are instances when girls come to buy the emergency pill like three times in a week. Anytime they have sexual intercourse, they come in for it,” Samata told Starr News.
Rescued teen mums narrate how dead hopes came back to life
Almost all the girls who listened directly to the midwife’s talk were carrying their own babies at the venue for the forum.
Teenage pregnancies had forced them out of school whilst the juvenile fathers, who were responsible for the pregnancies, marched upwards on the academic ladder. The untold hardships they faced grew worse as the future looked bleaker by the day. But the hopes that were once dead came flooding back alive when the PPAG located them through an initiative dubbed “Adolescent Girls Empowerment Project” and put them on the road to recovery by registering them with an adolescent guild called “Young and Wise Club”. That association meets at least twice in a week in the district to discuss girls’ reproductive rights and ways girls can understand exploitation in any form and avoid it. They told Starr News how their future was messed up and how it was being fixed back.
“I went to my boyfriend’s house. I was 16 years at the time. The condom burst. That caused the pregnancy. I was in Form Three, about to write the BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination). I told him I was pregnant and he said I should not abort it. After we wrote the exams, he travelled to Accra, selling yoghurts. When it was time for delivery, he provided the things I needed for delivery with the money he earned from selling yoghurts.
“I have suffered so much with the baby. I live with my poor mother. My father is dead. The PPAG came to our house; then, one of my sisters called me that there was help for me. I have returned to school through the PPAG. I’m in JHS (Junior High School) Three. I’m no more staying with the one who impregnated me because I have realised that early marriage is not good. He (the father to her baby) has even gone ahead of me today. He is in SHS (Senior High School) Two whilst I’m still in JHS Three,” said Mbi Rose Akonu.
Patience Alagmbara recounted how her parents’ inability to pay her school fees at the basic level discouraged her from schooling further. She was apprenticed to a weaver. A man caught sight of her during the training and promised to take care of her apprenticeship costs on condition that she would live under his roof as his wife. She agreed and soon after arrival was put in the family way under that roof. An unhappy Patience gradually grew impatient over her unwanted condition. Finally, she walked out on the early marriage, but not without initial resistance from the man. Like the other lucky girls, the PPAG also spotted her, like her first lover did, and put her life back on a normal footing. She is being supported to get through the training needed for her chosen vocation— weaving.
Each of the teen mums and pregnant girls present at the forum was supported with soap, a bag of baby’s diaper, a piece of cloth and cash among other items provided by the PPAG and its donor partners.
“We identify and support teenage mothers and pregnant girls. We have six communities we are working in, in the Bingo District— Anafobisi (A and B), Bongo-Soe, Feo, Zorko, Kodorogo and Apuwomgo. We have adolescent clubs they’ve formed in all these communities. Most of them are alone. The boys that have done this to them have left them. So, taking care of themselves and the babies is not easy. So, we identify them and support them. That is what you just witnessed today.
“Apart from supporting them with the materials, we also give them information and education on how to take care of themselves and the babies, and how to keep themselves well with family planning methods. We don’t want to record a second pregnancy when they are not married. Apart from this activity we did today, we also have focal nurses we are working with in these communities. We bring these focal nurses on radio to educate the public on issues of reproductive rights, family planning, STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), et cetera. The organisation is much interested in the health of people,” the PPAG’s Project Officer in the Bongo District, Lydia Asampana, told Starr News.
By Edward Adeti, Upper East Region, Daily Mail GH