6 February 2018

Uganda: Govt Launches Push Against Teenage Pregnancy

Photo: Arthur Matsiko/The Observer
Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, left, greets Health minister Ruth Acheng as UNFPA country representative Alain Sibenaler looks on at the launch of the campaign against teenage pregnancy in Kampala on February 6, 2018.

The Ministry of Health has launched a drive dubbed "Live your Dream" aimed at fighting teenage pregnancy and enabling Ugandans to live life to the fullest.

According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 report, 25 percent of adolescents aged 15-19 in Uganda have begun childbearing.

"The issue of adolescent fertility is important on both health and social grounds. Children born to very young mothers are at increased risk of sickness and death," the report reads.

"Teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and are more constrained in their ability to pursue educational opportunities than young women who delay childbearing."

While launching the campaign in Kampala today, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga echoed the need to empower young people with education and health services for Uganda to achieve a healthy and productive population.

"It is important that we facilitate them [young people] to be in school, provide the necessary facilities, tools for their education and emancipation and also for their completion," said Kadaga.

"There are still obstacles like teenage pregnancy mostly because of ignorance, others are because of the conditions in which they live and the environment in which they study. But overall it is our responsibility to ensure that the high rates of child marriage in this country are brought down."

Kadaga called upon parents to talk to their children about sex and its impact so that the children are advised early enough.

Minister of Health, Ruth Acheng, said young people have the potential to develop Uganda provided they are healthy and educated.

"We know that for most young people in Uganda, puberty which is the biological onset of adolescence brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing," she said.

Acheng added that many young people have challenges accessing age-appropriate information and services on sexual and reproductive health. This, she said, results into young girls of as young as 10 years of age being forced into sex and marriage thereby "increasing their rates of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted infections as well as death or disability due to childbirth".

Although child pregnancy declined from 31 per cent in 2001 to 24 per cent in 2011, it rose up again to 25 as reflected in the 2016 UDHS report.

"Young people, especially girls between the ages of 15 to 24 continue to bear the brand of new HIV infection. The prevalence of HIV in this age group is at about 9.1 per cent compared to the national prevalence which stands at six per cent," she said.

Speaking to The Observer, executive director of Reach A Hand Uganda, Humphrey Nabimanya, said to curtail teenage pregnancy, providing information and awareness to the society is paramount.

"We also need to involve the elderly in our community so that they can join forces and advocate for some of these [practices] to stop," he said.

The campaign is being implemented by the government of Uganda in partnership with the UN population agency, UNFPA, Reach A Hand and the governments of South Korea, Denmark and Sweden.

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