Babies who have babies

Teenage pregnancies are a huge social problem.

Teenage pregnancies are a huge social problem.

Their most poignant aspect is that such young mothers are often unprepared for the huge responsibilities that come with parenthood.

That some of the teenage mothers are still at school and others are school dropouts - all of them still in need of parenting themselves - compounds the problem.

The disruption that follows an unwanted pregnancy can generate tensions that break up families and contribute to the social problem of runway teenagers, who become easy prey for prostitution rings.

But none of the social factors has such terrible consequences for teen mothers as poverty, which has driven some of them to suicide or infanticide.

Yesterday's front-page picture in Sowetan of a young girl smiling, despite facing a charge of murdering her two-year-old daughter, is a haunting example of the consequences of premature motherhood.

The girl's saga highlights the need for specialised public programmes for tackling this destructive social phenomenon, which is likely to get even worse in coming years as the scourge of Aids continues to take its toll on our nation.