PIC: National Population Council meets deputy Netherlands ambassador. (Credit: Eddie Ssejjoba)
KAMPALA - The Netherlands Embassy in Kampala has offered to support the government of Uganda's efforts in dealing with challenges facing the youth, focusing on Sexual Reproductive Health.
The embassy, according to the director general of the National Population Council (NPC) Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, has already partnered with government through the NPC, to focus on reversing the skyrocketing incidents of teenage pregnancy.
He adds that national figures reveal that at least 25% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are either pregnant or already mothers.
With such high rate of child mothers, Uganda is rated among the countries with the highest teenage pregnancies in Africa.
According to Dr. Musinguzi, to set the ball rolling, the deputy ambassador of the Netherlands Mission in Uganda, Joris Van Bommel recently made a courtesy call at the NPC head office at Statistics House where they discussed areas of collaboration in addressing population and development issues.
"We have discussed a number of issues touching on partnership to improve Reproductive Health of young people and this time we want to focus on teenage pregnancy," Dr. Musinguzi explained.
NPC would be tasked to first carry out mapping of the entire country to establish the worst hit districts in terms of teenage pregnancy. Thereafter, he explains, they would make arrangements for quick interventions, which includes stepping up advocacy.
"Current figures indicate that out of four girls between 15 and 19 years, one of them is a mother or currently pregnant, this is not good for our country and for the future of the youth" he said.
He explained that working with the embassy, NPC would be able to establish where the situation is worse and select where the interventions would begin from.
The program will target teachers in schools, law enforcement agencies, community and religious leaders, among others.
"After the mapping, we intend to lay strategies for advocacy, by targeting the gatekeepers who may include district and other leaders at all levels, religious and community leaders," he emphasized, adding that where cultural institutions are strong, the program would as well target cultural leaders.
"We know that in many areas religious leaders play a big role in marriages but we want them to start discouraging approval of marriages of girls before 18 and discourage it in their places of worship," he further explains.
On the sexual reproductive health, Dr. Musinguzi explains that the ministry of health will continue playing its role of providing health services, but the partnership would point out issues affecting the youth. They include encouraging the youth to access treatment and delivery in health facilities, accessing drugs and family planning services.
"When many girls get pregnant, it has far reaching implications including school attendance and dropout, unwanted pregnancies, poverty and other related challenges," he explained.
Musinguzi applauded the Netherlands Embassy for the support saying if not timely addressed, it would have negatives consequences on the youth who form the biggest percentage of the population of Uganda.
Child organizations fear that with the high number of teenage pregnancies, most adolescents are twice likely to die or develop health complications while giving birth because their bodies are not prepared to have children.
Bommel who was accompanied by other high ranking embassy officials commended NPC for its oversight and coordination of the population Program in Uganda.
He acknowledged the NPC's advocacy programs especially those aimed at addressing issues of young people's health, skills and education.
He declared that the embassy would also support key activities during this year's World Population Day commemoration, where it would jointly organize a high level dialogue on sexual reproductive health and rights of young people under the theme ' Leaving no young person behind: Strengthening Sexual Reproductive Health service delivery and accountability for adolescents and youth'.
The theme was adapted from the national theme; 'leaving nobody behind: Improving Service Delivery and Accountability.