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Enhancing Early and Unintended Pregnancy interventions through Community Led Initiatives in Katete and Sinda District, Lusaka, Zambia

Authors: Kelvin. L. Ngoma, Chilekwa Chisanga and Martin Mapesa

Theme: Strengthening

Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) Zambia works with partners to promote uptake and integration of mental health and psychosocial support. This is achieved through strategic partnerships with partners at different levels- national, Subnational and community levels. The organisation achieves this through training, development and distribution of materials on mental health and psychosocial support.

This paper aims at showcasing REPSSI Zambia’s Collaborative-Community Led Mental Health and Psychosocial skills-based intervention for addressing early and unintended pregnancy. 20 out of 800 villages in Chieftainess Kawaza of the Chewa people of Katete and Sinda were identified for the pilot study on the model. Convenience sampling was used to select the participating leaders under the oversight of her royal highness. The study utilised both qualitative, and quantitative methodologies. Qualitative data was collected through document analysis, direct observation, semi-structured interviews, as well as focus group discussions. Quantitative data was collected through a questionnaire.

Intervention process involved working with her Royal Highness and jointly working together to identify other strategic stakeholders that include but not limited to religious, civic, government and non-governmental organisation leaders operating at community level. Others identified sub chiefs (ndunas), headmen/women, appropriately qualified members of the community, adolescents and youth to form the intervention response team. REPSSI Zambia, supported with training of school and community-based implementers and supplying them with tools and other resources for implementing.

Findings of the study indicate positive outcomes in response activities for early and unintended pregnancies which include but not limited to prevention, support for teenage parents as well as facilitating re-entry into school. The results are attributed to community leaders at all levels being able to take the charge and own the interventions, the involvement of parents and young people, as well as enhanced collaborative efforts among various government and non-government institutions at community levels. As a result of this interventions, there is a robust mechanism for facilitating access to various SRH services adolescents and young people and enhanced referral system that include facilitated re-entry into school. There is evidence of community buy-in by traditional, religious leaders and parents to non- customary ways of preventing pregnancies, open dialogue on sex and sexuality with young people as well as prevention of prejudice, stigma and discrimination of pregnant teenagers as well as young parents.

Key words: Adolescents, capacity building, caregivers, collaborative, community leaders, Community- led, Mental Health, Psychosocial support, Sex and Sexuality

REPSSI's Unwavering Commitment to Humanitarian Response

On the 19th of August 2023, World Humanitarian Day was commemorated, centered around the theme "It Takes a Village," which strongly resonated with REPSSI's shared commitment to effecting positive change. As REPSSI, we took the time to honour this significant day and reflect on the meaningful achievements we accomplished throughout the year.

Undoubtedly, the adage "it takes a village" held true. Within REPSSI's scope, disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response emerged as crucial focal points. The region of East and Southern Africa grapples with a series of disasters, stemming from natural environmental events, climate change, and conflicts, which occur with alarming frequency. Our endeavours aimed at building resilience for environmental preservation and climate change mitigation, as well as swift responses to disasters and humanitarian crises within the region.

In the previous year, REPSSI collaborated with TPO Uganda and other partners, including the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), to champion social connectedness's role in delivering healthcare, education, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services. This initiative extended support to families and communities, fostering enhanced Psycho-Social Support (PSS) for children, adolescents, and youth in emergency contexts.

A staggering 1.36 million refugees and asylum seekers, hailing from South Sudan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and more, found a home in Uganda, as reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Uganda's Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) (UNHCR, 2020). Notably, approximately 81% of these new refugees were women and children (UNICEF, 2022).

While funding predominantly addressed immediate necessities like water and healthcare, the presence of unaccompanied children, children with disabilities, those affected by HIV, early marriages, or child labour was pronounced. Moreover, limited resources for marginalized children were compounded by a lack of psychiatrists, a scarcity of social workers, and limited programs tailored to their needs.

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