What you need to know:
- Health officials attribute the cases to lack of information on reproductive health and bad cultural practices.
- 44.8% 0bstetric cases in health centres in Kween District that are mainly young girls who present complications related to failed abortions and post-abortion.
The prolonged lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has led to rampant teenage pregnancies and marriages in Mt Elgon Sub-region, authorities have noted.
For instance, statistics in Mbale District indicate that 2,738 cases of teenage pregnancies were registered last year.
Dr Jonathan Wangisi, the district health officer, told Daily Monitor at the weekend that 22 per cent of pregnant women are teenagers.
Dr Wangisi made the remarks during the launch of a campaign dubbed; “Right Here Right Now” project by the Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) at the district headquarters.
The project is aimed at empowering teenagers with information on reproductive health and building capacity of district leaders to carry out integrated sexual reproductive and health rights (SRHR), among other objectives.
It is funded by the Netherlands, and is being implemented in Kapchorwa, Mbale, Kween, Kasese, Kampala and Kabalore districts for a five-year period.
Dr Ayub Wangubo, the Kween District Health Officer, said school-going teenagers are getting unexpected pregnancies due to lack of information on reproductive health.
“Due to lack of reproductive health information, teenage pregnancies are currently at 17.9 per cent in a district where 34.8 per cent of its population are youth,” Dr Wangubo said.
The Kapchorwa District Health Officer, Dr Siraji Masai, attributed the teenage pregnancies in the district to Sabiny culture where it is taboo for parents to have sex talk with their children.
“This is worsened by poor knowledge and lack of access to sexual reproductive health education,” Dr Masai said.
He also said teenage pregnancies have been monetised.
“Once a girl gets pregnant, parents negotiate for a payment and forced early marriages,” Dr Masai said.
Ms Faith Chepkurui, the district youth councillor, said more young people are engaging in early sex than before.
“Some of the teens are married, pregnant or nursing wounds of abortion. Teen marriages have spiked among girls and boys aged between 12 and 17 years in the past one year,” she said.
According to a 2020/2021 district health survey, early sex rose to 55 per cent from 29 per cent among teenagers .
Ms Priscilla Chelangat, a female youth councillor in Kween, said 21 per cent of girls were subjected to female genital mutilation before Covid-19, but the situation has escalated to 60 per cent.
“This is automatically driving early marriages because of this inhuman culture,” she said.
The Resident District Commissioner, Mr Dennis Balwaniregha, said the district has the highest female genital mutilation rate in Sebei Sub-region.
“Everytime I move out on duty, I am saddened by the sight of many children carrying babies. This will cause a very high dependency burden on our future population with many school dropouts,” Mr Balwaniregha said.
Mr Robert Webala, the deputy Mbale Resident City Commissioner, called for a rehabilitation programme for pregnant teenagers.
“They need to be rehabilitated so that when schools reopen, they can resume studies, without that, many may not return,” he said.
Mr Jackson Chekweko, the executive director of RHU, said youth are facing sexual reproductive health challenges.
“We have come up with holistic approach to end female genital mutilation, early sex, marriages, illegal abortions,” he said.
Mr Chekweko urged stakeholders to embrace the implementation of the sexuality education framework that was launched by First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni in 2018.
Mr George Magunda, the Kapchorwa Resident District Commissioner, urged NGOs to strengthen efforts to end violence among young people.