COMMUNITIES in the fishing camps of Fothergill, Nyaodza and Gache Gache in Kariba have expressed concern at the high number of school drop-outs and early child marriages involving girls, some as young as 13 years.
At least 59 girls fell pregnant during the lockdown period with some of them failing to return when school re-opened.
The communities have a highly mobile population including buyers of fish who come from across the country.
At Gache Gache, at least six girls dropped out of school recently after falling pregnant or reportedly being married in the community or in adjacent villages including Makande.
This comes as statistics show that the national teenage pregnancy rate is now at 22 percent amid revelations that the country records around 70 000 illegal or unsafe abortions per year.
It is estimated that one in every five girls drops out of school because of unwanted pregnancies.
Kariba district has seen at least 59 girls — some of them aged 15 and below — dropping out of school after falling pregnant or being married.
Section 3 (81) of the Constitution defines a child as any boy or girl who is aged below 18 years.
Some of the girls were in Grade Seven.
This came out of an outreach programme on gender-based violence (GBV) by a local organisation in the affected areas where girls identified their colleagues who had fallen pregnant.
At least 10 girls below the age of 15 fell pregnant at Fothergill Island during the lockdown period which started on March 31, 2020.
Fishermen in the fishing camps have been identified as culprits who often disappear after impregnating the girls.
Tony Waite Organisation which provides psycho-social support in Kariba district said child marriages and gender-based violence were major issues of concern in the fishing camps.
Tony Waite director Ms Ellen Vengere hailed the establishment of a police base in Gache Gache as a positive development in ensuring deterrence.
Gache Gache Ward 2 councillor Kudzanayi Makanyaire said criminals had been taking advantage of the absence of law enforcement agents to commit crimes in the fishing camps.