The number of adolescent girls in Uganda who get pregnant before attaining the age of consent has slightly increased to 25 per cent in the last seven years.
The rise in early child-bearing has been attributed to low education attainment among girls of 15 to 19 years with at least three in every 10 of them having no education and also three in every 10 having only primary level of education.
The newly released data from the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (UDHS) conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics between June 12 and December 18, 2016, also indicates a 1 per cent increase in teenage pregnancy from 24 per cent in 2011 to 25 per in 2016.
“Twenty five per cent of adolescent girls of 15 to 19 years in Uganda have begun child-bearing,” the report reads in part. This implies that nearly three in every 10 adolescent girls of 15 to 19 years in the country have begun childbearing.
It also shows that 19 per cent of women of 15 to 19 years have given birth and another five per cent were carrying their first pregnancy at the time of the survey.
“As expected, the proportion of women of 15 to 19 years who have begun childbearing rises rapidly with age, from three per cent among those of 15 years to 22 per cent among women of 17 to 54 years,” the report adds.
The preliminary results presented by Ms Helen Nviri, the UBOS director population and social statistics, indicates that adolescent childbearing is more common in rural areas, occurring at an average of three in every 10 teenage girls, compared to two in every 10 teenage girls in urban settings.
The disparities have been attributed to the level of advancement in education.
Health Minister Dr Jane Aceng, who launched the report, said girls who advance in their education have higher chances of not conceiving at an early age.
The report indicates that the proportion of teenagers who have started childbearing reduces with the level of advancement in education.
The report indicates that Teso sub-region has the most numbers of childbearing adolescent girls, standing at 31 per cent, and Kigezi sub-region with the lowest at 16 per cent. Tooro, Bunyoro and north-central sub-regions also have high levels of teenage pregnancy, standing at 30, 29, 30 per cent respectively while Kampala City registered the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy at only 17 per cent.
Knowledge of HIV prevention
The 2016 survey also covered questions on respondents’ knowledge of HIV prevention, their awareness of the modes of transmission and behaviours that can prevent the spread.
Among female youth of 15 and 24 years, the knowledge on HIV-prevention methods using condoms stood at 46 per cent. In Uganda, a recent report by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids, indicated that at least two girls in Uganda are infected with HIV every hour.
While speaking at the dissemination of another research study results on drug adherence in Kampala last week, Ms Noerine Kaleeba, the co-founder of The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), said there is need for a new and more creative way of communicating HIV/Aids prevention messages among the adolescent girls.
“To those who are not yet infected, I think we have slackened in messaging and we need to have specific messages that let young people know that ARVs are not a cure,” she advised.
“My appeal to all programmes that are working on HIV-care and prevention is to develop a special programme for these young people so they can enable them to adhere to treatment in preventing further spread of the virus,” Ms Kaleeba added.
Prof Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo, the head of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University, decried the high numbers of teenage pregnancies and called for urgent interventions.
“The teenage pregnancy and the mothers who are delivering between 15 and 19 years are another group of the young people is contributing to maternal deaths and need to be target with contraception,” Prof Kyomuhendo said.
Twenty five per cent of adolescent girls of 15 to 19 years in Uganda have begun child-bearing. The rise in early child-bearing has been attributed to low education attainment among girls of 15 to 19 years.
“There is need for a new and more creative way of communicating HIV/Aids prevention messages among adolescent girls.”
Noerine Kaleeba, taso co-founder
“Girls who advance in their education have higher chances of not conceiving at an early age.”
Dr Jane Aceng, Health Minister