Too many brands of energy drinks on the Ugandan market are partly to blame for the increasing cases of teenage pregnancy in the country, the state minister for gender and culture, Ms Peace Mutuuzo has said.
"These days there are many energy drinks on the market and our people are being deceived that they give manpower. You ask yourself, man power for what? Are they planning a war? In the evening when they get intoxicated they don't spare our young girls?" Ms Mutuuzo said before calling upon Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to intervene and regulate on the number of energy drink brands.
She adds, "Is it morally right to disguise alcoholic drinks as energy drink? Are we short of energy?" she asked.
Ms Mutuuzo made the remarks on Wednesday while officiating the budget conference for Bunyangabu District at Kibiito District headquarters.
The minister who doubles as the women representative for Bunyangabu said manufacturers of the energy drinks have gone ahead to give attractive brand names that lure people to consume their products.
"Majority of these energy drinks have been baptised with delicious names like Mukama Nayamba, Aleluya, Praise God and now days you see born again people rushing for these drinks," She said.
According to the minister, manufacturers ought to first measure the alcoholic content in the drinks before putting them on market.
“When we see our young girls getting pregnant it's not because of Covid, it's more of these drinks and energy drinks put on the market without necessarily analyzing them and their content. It is really important that we go slow on these drinks because some of them have been baptized very delicious names,” she added.
The minister advised parents whose daughters got pregnant during the Covid-19 induced lockdown to take them back to school when schools reopen.
The minister’s remarks come days after different reports indicated a sharp rise in teenage pregnancies and early marriages during the virus-induced lockdown across the country.
On September 1, Daily Monitor published a story about high teenage pregnancy rates in districts across West Nile Sub-region.
In the story, Mr Peter Data Taban, the Adjumani resident district commissioner, revealed that there were 143 recorded 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.
Taban attributed the trends to poor parenting, and other leaders point to alcoholism and substance abuse, noncompliance among the sub-county and village authorities and lack of sexuality education.
Barely a month before the West Nile report, authorities in the Elgon Sub-region had said they were grappling with similar cases.
For instance, statistics in Mbale District indicated that 2,738 cases of teenage pregnancies were registered last year.
Dr Jonathan Wangisi, the district health officer, told Daily Monitor that 22 per cent of pregnant women are teenagers.