The adolescent pregnancy rate in Uganda is still high at 25% and HIV is also very high in the adolescents
Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative has called on Uganda to invest more in adolescents.
"Investing in youths brings a triple dividend of health benefits. It will lead to better lives of adolescents now, promoting positive behaviours that will make a difference in the future. It will lead to a healthy generation through the promotion of health practices," he said.
In a speech read on his behalf by the WHO head of family health and population, Dr Olive Sentumbwe, at the opening ceremony of a two day national symposium on reproductive maternal newborn child and adolescent health (RMNCAH), he noted that the youth in Uganda are faced by an array of challenges that if not addressed will negatively impact the country's future.
78% of Uganda's 44.4m people are youth, out of which 30% are adolescents (ages 10-19). Woldemariam noted that this period of transition is characterised by rapid biological, emotional and social developments which if not well taken care of, can lead to grave health risks.
"This period is marked by several individual patterns which if not well attended to can lead to long-lasting negative consequences on the health and wellbeing of adolescents," he said.
These challenges will disable the country from realising what they intend to realise if not dealt with now.
He stated that the adolescent pregnancy rate in Uganda is still high at 25% and HIV is also very high in the adolescents, especially the girls, as compared to the other age groups.
He also noted that adolescent mortality in Uganda is the highest in Africa and it has risen from 34% to 43% between 2000 and 2012, with childbirth being the second cause of their death.
"We need to do more on adolescents. We need to focus on actions that will produce more impact on the behaviour and lifestyles of the youth," he said.
He stated that once adolescents are skilled and have the correct attitude, they can positively contribute to national development.
This year's symposium is under the theme ‘better accountability and coordination for RMNCAH-progress towards ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths'.
According to Dr Jesca Nsungwa, the acting commissioner maternal and child health, the symposium among other things has been organised to review the implementation of the RMNCAH sharpened plan/investment case 2016-2020.
The plan seeks to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality rates in Uganda. Uganda currently loses 6000 mothers annually, 68,000 children under five years, 40,000 stillbirths and 39,000 newborn deaths annually.
Nsungwa said that the aim of the plan is to reduce these deaths through emphasizing evidence-based high impact solutions, increasing access for high burden population, counting the deaths for weekly mortality and accountability for results.
She noted that currently, the mortality rates are higher in Northern Uganda, West Nile and the South West.
She said their plan is to take into account health facilities with the most deaths such that the cause can be addressed.
She called on the district health leaders to ensure that the death stocks are taken daily so that they have true records of the deaths.
$168m has been set aside to fund the project. This is a contribution from the World Bank, the Global Financing Facility and the Swedish government.
However, Dr Peter Waiswa, Associate Professor of health policy, planning and management at Makerere University, noted that in their equity analysis on maternal, newborn and child mortality, they have found that there is a slight reduction in child mortality in Uganda.
He said Karamoja registered the highest reduction on child mortality, followed by Busoga and Bunyoro.
The conference has brought together health practitioners across the country, development and implementing partners, the civil society and the youth.