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Bulawayo women bear less children - National Family Planning Council

by Staff Reporter
04 Jun 2017 at 10:10hrs | Views
WOMEN in Bulawayo metropolitan province bear the least number of children compared to their counterparts in other provinces across the country, statistics have shown.

According to the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), Bulawayo has the least Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2,7 against a national average of 4,0. Total Fertility Rate refers to the average number of live births a woman would have by the end of her childbearing years.

According to the latest Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS), fertility decreases with the increase in women's education and household wealth. The ZDHS notes that women with no education have more than twice (4,7) as many children, on average, as women with more than secondary education(2,2).

Women in the poorest households have also been observed to have more children (5,6) compared to women in the wealthiest households (2,4). Statistics show Manicaland province as having the highest TFR of 5,0 followed by Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Mashonaland Central provinces at 4,4 each. Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West province have TFRs of 4,3 each, followed by Midlands and Matabeleland South province with fertility rates of 4,2 and 3,5 respectively. Harare metropolitan province has the second lowest TFR of 2,8, after Bulawayo.

Analysts have observed a number of factors, among them high literacy on modern methods of contraception as contributing to low fertility rate. According to ZDHS findings Bulawayo has one of the highest contraception prevalence rates of 72 percent while Manicaland province has the lowest of about 59 percent.

ZNFPC Manager for Bulawayo and Matabeleland North provinces Mr Blessed Gumbi said, "Factors contributing to lower TFR could be economic hardships causing people to consider having fewer children. It could be that women of child bearing age spend more time at school or advancing their careers and therefore have limited time for child bearing. It could mean that women in Bulawayo are aware and are using methods of contraception more to prevent or delay pregnancy," he said.

Mr Gumbi also pointed out various advantages of having low fertility rate.

"Chances of maternal and neo-natal mortality and morbidity are reduced and chances of increased survival of infants is high in areas where there is lower TRF. It could also mean that there is a higher chance for evenly distributed resources among the population with lower populations as resources and infrastructure does not expand exponentially as does child bearing," he said.

Development expert Mr Enoch Musara added that religious and cultural practices that are predominant in Manicaland accounted for the high fertility rate in the province.

"The issue with Manicaland is all about religion. Manicaland is where you find these apostolic sects that are known for child marriages. They also discourage members from using contraception and effect is obvious," he said.

Added Mr Musara, "Manicaland is predominantly rural compared to Bulawayo. This may also explain the vast difference in the respective fertility rates in those areas. In urban areas, the girl child is more likely to delay child bearing as they pursue their career, while in rural areas women tend to get married and start childbearing earlier and consequently have more children," he said.

Researcher and director of Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PPRIZ) Dr Samukele Hadebe concurred but was quick to point out that more research needs to be carried out on the area.

"I feel issues of cultural practices tend to be over-exaggerated at times. There is little difference in cultural practices across Zimbabwe. One may not necessarily use that as a strong argument to support the figures. There are other factors, which perhaps people in the field can explain more clearly," he said.

Government is targeting to reduce the country's fertility rate to three children per woman by 2020, with economists having put their weight behind the move. Zimbabwe's population, which according to the 2012 national census report is estimated to be at 13 million, increased by 1,4 million from 11,6 million recorded during the 2002 national census exercise.

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