HEALTH minister Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said poverty was exposing adolescents to early sexual activities and called on the education sector to help the youths in making informed decisions. BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA Chiwenga, who is also Vice-President, made the remarks when he appeared before the Health and Child care Parliamentary Portfolio Committee led by MDC Alliance legislator Ruth Labode. 'The education sector has an important role in equipping the adolescents to make informed decisions as they spend most of their time at school,” Chiwenga said. Chiwenga’s call comes at a time the country is experiencing a surge in child marriages due to increased poverty in the country compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Food Programme estimates that over seven million Zimbabweans need food aid, and the number is set to grow as the country, pummelled by record levels unemployment rate, trudges into the lean season. Chiwenga said adolescents had a right to reproductive health services including HIV testing services, but needed protection from harm and societal support to make informed decisions. “Parents and other family members have an important role in delivering sexual and reproductive rights interventions such as preparing girls and boys,” Chiwenga said. “Adolescents care requires ongoing assessment and the development level of autonomy and its practical application capacity on consent.” Chiwenga said laws do not operate in a vacuum, adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights were not only a health issue, but the whole populace should be afforded a say in the matter.