Out of the 2.3 million women who got pregnant in 2013, in Uganda, 386,000 were adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years, and an estimated 57,000 of these pregnancies were aborted, according to findings of a study presented yesterday.
These findings were presented during a dissemination meeting on the incidence of induced abortion and post abortion care among adolescents in Uganda. The study, carried out between June and November 2013 by Makerere University School of Public Health and the Guttmacher Institute, was conducted in 418 health facilities in 37 districts in the country.
Dr Justine Bukenya, one of the researchers, said the shortfall of the research is that abortion is difficult to measure.
“Women do not want to talk about it. We interviewed only girls who had visited health centres to treat post abortion complications. Also, we did not study adolescents aged 10-14 years. So, the findings are just a tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The Population Services International, Uganda country representative, Dr Dorothy Balaba, said only empowered adolescents have the courage to go to health centres for post abortion care.
“A typical adolescent girl fears to tell anyone she is pregnant. Many of them are dying in the hands of quacks and we never get to know these girls. Adolescents have a right to get correct information and this is where we have failed the young people,” she said.
While abortion is illegal in Uganda, for the mother whose life is in danger, or the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest, post abortion health care is a right.
An estimated 800 abortions are carried out every day countrywide and Kampala has the highest rate with 77 abortions per 1,000 women as compared to the western region, which had 18 abortions per 1,000 women.