Every year, Uganda loses sh25b in post-abortion care and treatment resulting from unsafe abortions, the minister of State for Health (General Duties), Sarah Opendi has revealed.
This kind of money would be able to pay about 90,000 primary school teachers who earn sh 279,145 per month.
She was speaking at the national stakeholders’ dialogue on ending teenage pregnancy and child marriages in Uganda held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.
She said these unsafe abortions are as a result of unwanted pregnancies caused by rape, incest, and women or girls that conceive unintentionally.
“Can you imagine the country loses sh25b annually in the post-abortion care and treatment. This is a lot of money government would use to invest in different development projects,” she said.
“The country will not achieve the middle income status when we still have high levels of child marriages and teenage pregnancies which end up in safe abortions. We can no longer afford to talk about these issues under the table, we must come together as stakeholders and put our heads together to fight against the problem of teenage pregnancy and early marriages,” she added.
Over 900,000 of Uganda’s annual 2.2million pregnancies are unintended and unplanned. About 400,000 of these end up in abortion.
According to the 2013 brief by the Guttmacher Institute, Uganda’s abortion rates are higher than the 18% World Health Organization’s estimates for the East African sub region and the 13% of the world.
Opendi also said despite reductions in maternal mortality from 438 deaths per 100,000 live births registered in the 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) report to the current 336 deaths per 100,000 live births, teenage pregnancies contribute to 25% of maternal mortality in the country.
According to recent UDHS report, 19% of women of 15-19 years have given birth and the problem is more common in rural areas where by an average of three in every ten teenage girls in the village have given birth as compared to two in every ten girls in the urban setting.
Ruth Muguta, the principal social development officer, family affairs, ministry of gender said some parents force their girls to abort, just because they want to protect their status in society.
The purpose of the dialogue was to share the status of teenage pregnancy and its implications on social-economic development, discuss the linkages and impact of teenage pregnancy on enhancing Uganda’s demographic dividend and achievement of Vision 2040 among others.
It was organized under the theme “Ending teenage pregnancy through financing and implementation of the national strategy to end child marriages and teenage pregnancy 2015-2020”.
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Director General, National Population Council said without addressing the problem of teenage pregnancies, it will also be difficult to reduce fertility rates in the country, and this will continue to stretch the health sector, reduce the high dependency levels and poverty.
Parents partly to blame
Discussing reasons why teenage pregnancies and early marriages have persisted despite different interventions by government and other partners, several discussants put blame on parents.
The Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police in the sexual offences department, Rose Nalubega revealed that they have had many cases where someone impregnates an underage girl, but when the police starts following up the case to arrest the perpetrator, some parents over declare the victim’s age.
“After getting money from the perpetrators, some parents lie about their daughters’ ages. A parent will tell you the daughter is nineteen-years and above, but you clearly see she is an underage girl,” she said.
“For us to be able to disapprove the parents or get actual evidence means going to churches where they were baptized or their schools, and more often, we do not have transport to do that. There is need to sensitize parents on the dangers of teenage pregnancies as well as early marriages,” she said.
The stakeholders agreed that there is need to work together to end teenage pregnancies and child marriages.