Child marriages now rampant

THE Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elder and Children is set to amend the marriage law to curb child marriages which are becoming rampant.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday before wrapping up budget estimates for her ministry, the Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu said they are planning to amend the Marriage Act of 1971 and put marriage age at 18 years from the current 14. A budget estimate of 1,115,608,772,090 for her ministry was unanimously passed by the Assembly.

She said that she will present her case to the Attorney General (AG) soon so that the law can be amended, but said that only because of special cases will the government allow a girl to be married at below 18.

She gave an example of Bangladesh, where in January, this year, they amended their Marriage Act and placed 18 as the right age for marriage, but said that they allow a girl under 18 years to be married if it is a special case, which includes pregnancy.

At the same time, the minister directed all councils in the country to present their budget estimates for drugs on every 30th of every year so that the Medical Stores Department (MSD) can have ample time to prepare their supply.

She said that the same councils should develop a habit of setting aside funds from internal sources which will be used in the fight against HIV/Aids. She further said that currently availability of drugs stand at 81 per cent, but told the Assembly that her ministry has entered into five contracts with drug suppliers and that soon availability of drugs will stand at 95 per cent.

On child services, the minister said that she has issued a directive to all councils to ensure that when they present hospital construction plans they should make sure they have a childrens ward.

I will be very strict on this matter and I want to assure you that no hospital master plan will be approved if they do not include a childrens ward and we will do this so that we can be able to reduce the number of mortality rates, she said.

On his part, the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, Dr Hamisi Kigwangala, said that his ministry is not impressed by the rampant dismissal of civil servants in the country because it drastically affects the health sector.

He said that with a shortage of qualified staff, it will be difficult for the health sector to achieve their goals, saying that to train a single health worker is very costly, therefore these people are supposed to be given all the necessary support in implementing their duties, instead of letting them live in fear.

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