• Tue Jul 14 2020
  • Gov't advised to prioritise adolescent health

Experts and civil society activists have called on the government to prioritise sexual and reproductive health needs for the youth if Uganda is to achieve the much-needed demographic dividend.
Owen Wagabaza
Journalist @ New vision
Experts and civil society activists have called on the government to prioritise sexual and reproductive health needs for the youth if Uganda is to achieve the much-needed demographic dividend.

KAMPALA - It is no secret that Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world. It currently has the second youngest population in the world with over 78% below 30 years, second only to Niger's 83%. Experts say, such a young population can be a great resource and a huge burden at the same time in regard to national development. 

"A country's age structure is more important than its population size or growth rate. This is because people's effects on the economy vary depending on their level of productivity, which in turn is affected by their age. It, therefore, matters most that a nation like Uganda makes its priorities right to harness what is referred to as the demographic dividend," Henk Jan Bakker, the outgoing Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda said.

Jan Bakker was speaking at an E-dialogue under the theme: ‘Building Uganda's Resilience: Investing in young people's Sexual and Reproductive Health', organised by the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Alliance Uganda in partnership with the Netherlands Embassy and the Population Council.

At the dialogue, experts and civil society activists called on the government to prioritise sexual and reproductive health needs for the youth if Uganda is to achieve the much-needed demographic dividend.

Dr Betty Kyadondo, the Director, family health at the National Population Council emphasised the need to have more people who are contributing to the country's development by increasing on the people above 15 years and reducing on those below the 15-year age bracket. 

"We should encourage family planning so that there are fewer young people who happen to be consumers and more working-class people who contribute to the national economy," Dr Kyadondo said. 

Hindu Gloria, a peer educator at Reach A Hand Uganda called on the government to prioritise sexual and reproductive health services for the youth if Uganda is to achieve a demographic dividend.

"COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the youths' access to sexual and reproductive health services. Youth corners have been closed, the cost of transport to health centres is high, and worse still, all the attention has been turned to COVID at the expense of other health service delivery components," Hindu said.    

According to Hindu, such challenges are resulting in unplanned pregnancies leading to school dropouts, STD and HIV infections which hamper the harnessing of the demographic dividend. "We need an educated, skilled and healthy youth population to ably achieve the demographic dividend," Hindu emphasised. 

Sylvia Akello, the Otuke District woman member of parliament highlighted the need to encourage teenage mothers to go back to school. "Rather than marrying them off to produce children they cannot take care of, they should go back to school and be equipped with skills that can turn them into producers and contributors to the national economy, rather than consumers," the MP said.

Jackson Chekweko, the executive director of Reproductive Health Uganda called for more funding of adolescent health. "At least 10% of the ministry of health budget should go to adolescent health," said Chekweko.

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