With the increasing economic pressures, the role of parenting has been abdicated, a trend experts blame for the increasing teenage pregnancies in the country.
From the 24% in the previous surveys, the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey put teenage pregnancy at 25%. Thus a slight increase in a statistic that’s already amongst the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. This means 1 in every 4 girls aged between 15-19 years in Uganda is either pregnant or already having their first baby.
Speaking during the launch of a campaign to end teenage pregnancy dubbed ‘Let’s change the story’ by Plan International-Uganda, Judy Kamanyi, a social development, governance and gender equality consultant argued that much as government is liable for the growing statistics, the primary responsibility lies with the parents.
“Parents, let us do the work that we are here for and that’s to raise responsible children who are able to achieve their full potential. Gov’t can help but to a certain extent,” she said.
According to Dr. Placid Mihayo from the Reproductive Health department at the Ministry of Health, there is an information gap that urgently requires critical interventions.
“Most teenage pregnancies are unintended and some of these end up in unsafe abortions. There is need for age appropriate sexual and reproductive health information to help break the cycle of teenage pregnancies,” he said.
Abstinence according to Mihayo is the core message. But there is need to appreciate that some young people are sexually active and therefore need protection.
With most adolescent sexual and reproductive services donor supported, the experts argued that these are usually hit by a lack of sustainability.
While presenting a petition for youth inclusive budgeting to the finance minister and parliamentarians, young people drawn from across the country asked government to increase funding towards adolescent sexual and reproductive health services.
Speaking on behalf of the young people, Sophie Nabukenya, a researcher and youth advocate called on government to increase investment in youth friendly services at health facilities.
“A lot of myths and misconceptions still shroud issues of sexual and reproductive health. Some girls start menstruation without knowing what it is exactly and the implication. A girl sees blood and thinks it’s a wound,” she explained.
According to the young people, health workers need to be equipped with skills on how to handle adolescents. These are apparently judgmental and have instead pushed young people away from seeking these services.
Minister Chris Baryomunsi who represented the state minister for finance, planning and economic development called on parliamentarians to give special focus on issues of young people.
“What these young people are telling us is for a country with majority of the population below 25 years, the budget should be seen to be concentrated on issues that affect them. It’s the duty of MPs to cause debate on these issues they are raising,” he said.
The 2017/2018 budget estimates have already been allocated by the Ministry of Finance and according to Baryomunsi as the parliamentarians make a critical examination of the estimates, they should see that young people’s concerns are catered for.
Teenage pregnancies are associated with pregnancy related illnesses like fistula, high infant and maternal mortality, babies with low birth weight, malnutrition and stunted growth, school dropout and inhibit girls from achieving their full potential.