By John Agaba
In a bid to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy related complications, government will consider giving contraception to every woman in the reproductive age group.
That includes girls between 14 and 18 years.
In Uganda over 16 women die in pregnancy related complications every day. And for every one woman who dies, more 15 develop pregnancy related complications including fistula.
This statistic takes the country way short of Millennium Development Goal 5 of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015, barely less than 1000 days to go.
In a breakfast meeting, organized by the health ministry at the Kampala Imperial Royale Hotel at the end of last week, state minister for primary health care Sarah Opendi, said it was “unethical” we allow these women to keep dying from preventable deaths.
She said that while the major causes of maternal mortality were known and ranged from over bleeding, to high blood pressure, malaria and many more, many women die aborting.
“We have an age bracket of 14 to 18 years. Many of these teenage girls get pregnant but, they are not ready”, said Opendi.
“They can’t tell their parents that they are pregnant. They can’t tell their teachers. And the boys who have made them pregnant are usually their class mates and they can’t help. These girls usually end up trying to get rid of the fetus and at times they die.”
She said that they (government) were in preparations to avail contraception to girls in this age bracket.
“We shall set up youth friendly corners at their schools, hospitals, where they can go and get helped,” said Opendi, adding that they will likely provide them condoms and pills on top of counseling.
“You don’t know what some of these girls go through,” said the minister motherly. “When they can’t confide in anyone and are desperate to get the fetus out they will do anything.”
“At times they use sticks. She will push a stick through the vagina to perforate the uterus. But many times they do it badly and bleed to death or end up perforating the rectum or the bladder and they contract a fistula,” added Opendi.
John Cooper, the executive director Uganda Family Planning Consortium, stressed the need of birth spacing, even for women above 18 years, to avert the numbers of women who die in pregnancy related complications.
He said that every woman should have a child by choice, not chance. “Of the women who get pregnant, a half of them have not planned for the pregnancies, their pregnancies are unwanted.”
“Now, we can’t want to reduce the numbers of women who die while giving birth and not want to provide women with contraception that can reduce their fertility,” said Cooper.
“It’s easy, reduce the numbers of women becoming pregnant and you reduce the number of women dying in pregnancy related complications.”
The minister, however, will have to first convince many before government’s plan of availing condoms and pills to every woman who needs to control birth including school going teen girls is implemented seeing as our culture is overly conservative.
Uganda’s fertility rate stands at 6.7. However, statistics show it is women in rural areas, the hard to reach areas, the areas without enough qualified midwives who produce twice as many children.
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, a population guru, was worry over Uganda’s population growth rate which he said was skyrocketing at an unhealthy speed. Uganda’s population stands at over 34million people.