High teenage pregnancy rates worry leaders

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Dr Dominic Drametu, the district health officer, said the average percentage for teenage pregnancy has risen to 14.1 per cent from 13.7 per cent in the last financial year

Districts across West Nile Sub-region region are grappling with high cases of teenage pregnancy, defilement and school dropouts following the closure of education institutions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Peter Data Taban, the Adjumani resident district commissioner, told Daily Monitor on Monday that they had created a stakeholders’ forum to address the problem.

“We recorded 143 cases of teenage pregnancy, 175 cases of girls who got married underage and another 1,707 girls who dropped out before the closure of schools,” Mr Taban said.

He attributed the situation to poor parenting.

“Reports are brought to police as well as the culprits but parents sneak out to negotiate with the perpetrators who end up paying some bride price. Sometimes police find it hard to pursue the cases,”   Mr Taban said.

Dr Dominic Drametu, the district health officer, said the average percentage for teenage pregnancy has risen to 14.1 per cent from 13.7 per cent in the last financial year.

“This figure is above the national average of 10 per cent, the sub-counties of Ofua, Adropi and Ukusijoni are most affected,” he said.

Whereas there are efforts to contain the problem, Dr Drametu said there was noncompliance among the sub-county and village authorities.

In the neighbouring Moyo District, authorities attribute the vice to alcoholism and substance abuse.

In the past six months, the district has registered 529 cases of teenage pregnancy and underage marriages, the highest ever registered, according to Mr Jimmy Ameko Wale, the district senior probation officer.

Mr Ameko cited cultural practices that have influenced parenting strategies in the communities.

“There is a need to draw interventions towards supporting families parenting. It is a taboo in some cultures to teach girls and boys about sexual health,” Mr Ameko said.

Ms Palma Ayia, the district senior inspector of schools, said the community does not fully understand the sexuality education framework.

“In a situation where parents and elders do not value sex education like it is now, children mess up while the community watches because they are not guided now that schools are closed and parents needed to do their best,” Ms Ayia said.

Mr David Modo, the Moyo resident district commissioner, at the weekend said they had decided to embark on sensitisation to fight the vice.

“We have resolved to carry out massive community sensitisation on the social challenges facing the district and also arrest and charge those who do not comply with the law,” Mr Modo said.

In Obongi District, authorities have registered 86 cases of teenage pregnancy and child marriage in the last three months.

Mr Dominic Lomurecu, the acting district health officer, said in 2019, the teenage pregnancy rate was at 18 per cent but it is at 23.6 per cent.

Mr Lomurecu added that every month, at least 29 teenage girls get pregnant.

During a recent visit to the district, the State Minister for Local Government, Ms Victoria Rusoke, condemned the vice and its perpetrators.

She appealed to authorities to take quick action.

National crisis

Recently, the National Children Authority said the high sexual offences committed against children throughout the country during the lockdown last year primarily resulted from parental negligence. Mr Martin Kiiza, the executive director of the authority, said the government was cognizant that parents failed to maximally protect children. Mr Kiiza said the lockdown has kept children and the perpetrators under the same roof and the same community for long, adding that parents and caregivers did not provide the children with the maximum attention and support. He advised parents to seek family planning methods. “Parents must get into strategic family planning to avoid bearing children just for the sake of it, it becomes a huge problem because children who have no sense of guidance fall victim quickly,” Mr Kiiza said. According to the State of Uganda Children Report 2020, launched in March, school closure resulted in gaps in the provision of health and psychological services.

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