By Nicholas Wassajja
At least 800 abortions are carried out every day in Uganda. Out of these, youth contribute 50%. This is according to a recent research done by Makarere University.
Speaking at a stakeholder meeting with Members of Parliament and Youth Actors on Advocacy for Youth-friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Kampala, the executive director Reproductive Health Uganda, Jackson chekweko revealed that out of the 300,000 abortions annually, about 1,500 girls die from complications resulting from unsafe abortion.
Chekweko noted that the numbers have significantly contributed to the sluggish progress to mitigate the number of women who die due to pregnancy-related complications.
“Well, we missed a step in the fight but the only direction to recovery that we can now take is ensuring the wellbeing of young people, otherwise we might continue having women die due to pregnancy because for every 4 young girls, 1 is either pregnant or must have produced at a tender age,” he explained.
The meeting that focused on identifying possible actions in the area of policy and legislative advocacy was organized by the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA), Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (SRHR Alliance) and UNESCO.
The meeting which reflected on the progress made by Uganda in improving youth-friendly access to health services, comes one year since Uganda signed the eastern and southern Africa ministerial commitment that supports sexual education and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people.
Chekweko said that early pregnancy which is associated with quite a number of complications has majorly been escalated by undermining the power of sex education at home.
He noted: “Sex education must begin at home because from ages zero to 14, the most trusted source of information to children is the parent but it’s unfortunate that in Uganda, parents fear to initiate these topics and by the time they do, the children have other sources they can really on.”
The UNSECO national program officer for HIV/AIDs, Charles Draecabo, said with the 51 new infections in East and South Africa, 52% of them are affecting the over 2.6 million youth living with HIV.
Draecabo said that if anything is to be done for the young people, there is need to recognize that information alone cannot help adding that 40% of them receive inaccurate basic information about HIV/AIDs.
“Let us supplement information with services if we are to help the young ones by starting with the youth friendly services and providing options especially for teenage mothers,” Draecabo said.
He also said that, “there is need to expand access to skill-based quality life, gender sensitive sexual education and related support services.”
The Iganga woman MP Olivia Kabale urged fellow legislators to agitate for legal frameworks that are more responsive across young people to improve access to reproductive health services from at least 30% to 55%.
Kabale also condemned cultural practices that hinder youth access to reproductive health care.
She said; “condemning alone may not be as helpful but I also call upon cultural leaders in this struggle if we are to mitigate the relevance for cultural beliefs that bar youth access to reproductive health services.”
Buikwe south MP Lulume Bayiga said that all the questions surrounding the youth wellbeing in East and South Africa can only be solved by challenging the media and other stakeholders like cultural and religious leaders to engage governments in improving the micro economics of the basic unit of a nation which is the general livelihood of a family.
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Abortion: Uganda registers 800 daily, 1,500 girls die annually