'Concerted effort needed to end teenage pregnancy'
Jan 24, 2023
Uganda ranks 16th out of the 25 countries with the highest rate of child marriages in the world
Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs addressing the delegates on child marriage. Photo by Godiver Asege
Youth and children affairs state minister Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke has called for concerted efforts in the fight against child marriages and teenage pregnancy.
Mateke says though various interventions have been put in place over the years, the vice remains persistent.
She adds that there is a need for new strategies to effectively tackle the problem which continues to ruin the future of “our girl child”.
Mateke made the remarks during a national dissemination of the Second National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy 2022/2023-2026/2027, at Admas Hotel, Entebbe today.
She added that since 2015 when the Government launched the first national strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy (2014/15-2019/2020), little has been achieved.
“Evaluation of the implementation of the first strategy showed that we registered minimal success. Our overall progress was also undercut by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mateke said.
According to Mateke, the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded with pre-existing factors, caused Uganda to register 354,736 teenage pregnancies in 2020 and 290,219 in 2021, making an average of 32,000 teenage pregnancies per month, according to the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) 2021 report.
Cost of inaction
She said currently, Uganda ranks 16th out of the 25 countries with the highest rate of child marriages in the world, which, according to her, is nothing to be proud about.
Mateke said Uganda stands to continue losing sh645 b annually on the healthcare of teenage mothers and their children if no action is taken, according to the Cost of Inaction Study by the National Planning Authority in 2022.
Numbers likely to reduce
Mateke is hopeful that since schooling is now back to normal, the number of child marriages and teenage pregnancy is likely to reduce.
She said statistics also indicate that teenage pregnancy account for 22.3% of school dropouts among girls aged between 14-18 years.
“That is why we need to take concerted efforts to end this problem and ensure our girls are protected. We need to make sure that this second strategy reaches the grassroots for the community to understand. We can’t do anything minus the local community where these girls come from,” Mateke added.
She stressed that the focus should be on adolescent girls as direct beneficiaries and active participants.
The event was attended by various international and local organisations including UNFPA, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, USAID, Child Fund, Plat International, Africa Child and Joy for Children among others, who work towards ending the vice.