Teen pregnancies imperil Uganda’s demographic transition

Teenage pregnancies have increased in the past two years across the country. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Teenage girls in Uganda are faced with multiple vulnerabilities that place them at the receiving end of teenage pregnancy.

A new report by the National Population Council (NPC) warns that the high pregnancy rate among teenage girls (3.5 percent) and growth of demographic dividend (0.6 percent) might stall efforts at harnessing the country’s Demographic Dividend by 2040.

Demographic dividend refers to the growth in an economy that is the result of a change in the age structure of a country’s population.

The State of Uganda Population Report 2022 warns that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be a mirage if nothing is done to reduce the upsurge of teenage pregnancy in the country.

Teenage pregnancy statistics in Uganda remain a cause for concern. In 2016, 25 percent of the proportion of women aged 15-19 had given birth or were pregnant with their first child as per the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Almost half of these pregnancies were unwanted.

Teenage girls in Uganda are faced with multiple vulnerabilities that place them at the receiving end of teenage pregnancy. Young people faced with poverty and financial challenges are prone to early marriages or transactional sex, all of which contribute to teenage pregnancy tally.

While releasing the report on Thursday, Mr Jotham Musinguzi—the NPC director general—said such trends will have grave implications for the country.

“In a setting where child marriage acceptability and societal normalcy is high, it is difficult to separate and understand the drivers of teenage childbearing and pregnancy,” he said, adding, “Uganda has the 16th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world, and 10th highest in absolute number globally.”

He urged the government to develop sustainable development skills and programmes for the youth, especially girls so that such cases of early teenage pregnancies can be avoided.

Dr Mary Otieno, the UNFPA country representative, said for Uganda to realise “the undeniable benefits of its demographic window”, there has to be “investment in sexual and reproductive rights.”

Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the junior Finance minister, revealed that the central plank of the country’s “population-responsive policy … is to accelerate fertility and mortality decline, attain a population age structure favourable for development through lowering the dependency burden and increase investments in young people.”

He added: “The game changers for demographic transition are promoting family planning, improving child survival, keeping children, especially girls, in school to completion, and strengthening organised urbanisation.”