Mzimba Youth resurrects “Love Jungle” amidst rising HIV infections

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Love Jungle Mzimba

The absence of a Youth Center in the Mzimba district has become a significant factor contributing to the surge in risky and immoral behaviours among the local youth. 

This issue gained notoriety in 2019 when a spot along the Mzimba River, dubbed “Love Jungle,” became a notorious hub for drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activities, and marijuana smoking.

Despite efforts from the M’mbelwa District Council, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and the police to shut down the area, youths have returned to the spot to resume their immoral activities. 

The initial closure had led to a noticeable reduction in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among the youths, but the recent resurgence of activity in the area has raised significant concerns.

Executive Director of Mzimba Youth Organization (MYO), Moses Nkhana, expressed his dismay at the reopening of Love Jungle. 

“We are deeply concerned that young people have returned to this place because the initial closure significantly reduced the number of STIs among our youth. If we do not act swiftly, we risk seeing a resurgence in these infections,” said Nkhana.

M’mbelwa District Council youth officer, Yamikani Nyalugwe, acknowledged the reopening and reiterated the council’s commitment to closing the area again. 

“Our office was unaware that the youth had started frequenting the place again. We will do everything possible to ensure that ‘Love Jungle’ is inaccessible. We are ready to collaborate with any organization to instil good manners in our youth,” Nyalugwe stated.

Mzigo Youth Club, through its secretary Blessings Gondwe, offered a proactive solution by proposing the creation of a Mzimba District Computing Youth Center. 

Gondwe said: “We are ready to support the youth by donating computers received from Mzuzu University (MZUNI) because these computers have educational materials ranging from primary school to university levels. We hope that establishing such a centre will provide a constructive outlet for the youth.”

In his remarks, M’mbelwa District Council, Director of Planning and Development (DPD) Walter Chikuni, confirmed the council’s willingness to provide space for the proposed youth center. According to Chikuni, this initiative aims to divert the youth from harmful activities and engage them in productive endeavours.

Gentry Kamanga, a former board member of the National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCM), emphasized the need for sustainable solutions. 

“Many young people are finishing school without job prospects therefore encouraging youth to venture into business is crucial,” Kamanga said.

On her part, Chimwemwe Sichinga, the Acting Director of Trade at the M’mbelwa district council, reinforced the council’s support for youth entrepreneurship. 

“Our office is open to advising anyone wanting to start a business as such we do not discriminate, and youth are a primary focus for us,” Sichinga affirmed.

According to the 2023 report from the National Aids Commission (NAC), Mzimba recorded 320 new HIV infections, with the highest numbers among the youth. 

This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need for interventions to address the root causes of such behaviours and to provide the youth with safe, constructive alternatives.

Nationally, Malawi continues to grapple with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, with approximately 9.2% of the adult population living with the virus. Among the youth, the situation is particularly dire, as they account for a significant portion of new infections. 

The situation in Mzimba is a microcosm of the broader national crisis, highlighting the critical need for dedicated youth centres and comprehensive support systems to mitigate risky behaviours and improve the overall well-being of the youth.

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