The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiatives (REPSSI) has shown its concern towards the surging adolescent pregnancies amid the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.
This was revealed during the REPSSI’s preparation meeting ahead of the Government of Mozambique and REPSSI’s 6th Regional Psychosocial Support Forum set for October 13 to 15, 2021 in Maputo, Mozambique.
REPSSI Chief Executive Officer Patrick Onyango highlighted that the escalation of Covid-19 has seen children from vulnerable communities continuing to miss school due to closures and lack of resources for e-learning, loss of care givers or family members, family income, increased violence at home and a lack of access to child protection services. He stressed that if children fail to return to school, cases of unsafe sexual practices, early and unintended pregnancies will increase.
Besides the fact that the detested behaviour takes an upturn, he said children go through these challenges owing to lack of mental health services while they continue to stomach the burden of stigma and social exclusion.
“The pregnant adolescents often lose their social network, they are rejected by family, religious networks, their partners, they are less informed on nurturing care, and struggle with stigma and exclusion. Unfortunately, youth face some of these challenges without receiving adequate psychosocial support and access to mental health services,” Onyango said.
Onyango expressed that children and youths have been stricken by the lockdowns which indirectly pump the odds of high risk behaviors and the swelling rate of pregnancy, citing that the organisation is rolling sleeves to provide children with education in a bid to eradicate unintended and early pregnancy.
“We have seen a lot of suffering due to Covid-19 so as results of that means we need to focus more on mental health now more than ever. Families need PSS, at REPSSI we have been mobilizing the communities over the past 20 years with PSS at community level, family level while working with the state governments,” Onyango said.
“The forum is an opportunity to draw different minds in a common place with a common goal and come up with ideas on how we can deliver the PSS. REPSSI is very excited that it has been delivering the services the countries need for the betterment of the people,” Onyango said.
REPSSI Country Representative Phomolo Mohapeloa stated that the purpose of the meeting was to sensitize the media as well as the public at large about the PSS Forum that is coming in October 2021. She also added that, the theme of the 6th by-annual REPSSI Forum meeting is to innovate, integrate and thrive.
She also mentioned that a key event leading to this forum is the children and youth PSS Conference on October 9, 2021, which aims to ensure the voices of children and youth are heard and acted upon. PSS Forum in REPSSI is a regular by-annual event.
“We operate in 13 Southern African countries and we want to showcase what psychosocial support can do to better people’s lives especially children and youth. We were not able to host the forum since 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and we usually host these forum meetings live in different countries with different professionals dealing with children and youth,” Mohapeloa said.
She said that this year the forum is going to be live for limited people and virtual for the rest of the audiences holding their own country forums connected to the main stage in Mozambique.
“From last month we invited people to share and issue papers they have done concerning children and youth so that we can compile and present them in the forum.
Mohapeloa stated that there will be two representatives from the children forum who will present all detailed information discussed from the children and youth meeting on the October 9, 2021. At the children meeting the forum will host 10 children from each country virtually presenting their different topics.
She said REPSSI focuses on the wellbeing of children and youth by training caregivers, guardians and all interested stakeholders who are dealing with children daily. She continued that there is also a part-time certificate programme that has been running in the country for almost 15 years. The programme takes 12 to 15 months and it also involves the children mental health.
“The certificate is offered by the University of KwaZulu-Natal and REPSSI is licensed in Lesotho as well as other countries. There is also a diploma for teachers that are still accredited by the National University of Lesotho which takes two years and 48 teachers have graduated.”
“REPSSI programmes are situation-based because the mentors go to any place where there are enough people to be mentored. The fee for enrolment in the REPSSI program is now M12 000.00 that is payable in instalments. Furthermore, REPSSI operates in Mafeteng, Berea and Maseru.
Meanwhile, REPSSI Advisory Board member Thuso Green said with REPSSI people who are involved with public services and children have developed and grown into responsible caregivers today. He also added that Covid-19 has brought a major challenge.
“Psychosocial Support is improving lives in many angles and so far we have seen the results of our tireless work. We need to understand levels of traumas of our children so with programs offered by REPSSI we are able to bring the best out of people so they can see through their children and youth,” Green said.