An overdue fight against teenage pregnancy in Lango sub-region has finally kicked off. The timely fight is in response to the increasing cases of teenage pregnancies that have forced several young girls out of school.
Lango sub-region comprises of eight districts of Alebtong, Amolatar, Apac, Dokolo, Kole, Lira, Oyam and Otuke.
In Lira, more than 1,170 teenage girls were reported to have been impregnated in a span of three months in 2015, which majority of child rights’ activists say is alarming.
Figures from the district bio-statistician indicate that during the third quarter of the 2015/2016 financial year, 132 adolescent pregnancies were recorded in Adekokwok Sub-county.
At least 215 teenage pregnancies were registered in Adyel Division, while 110 and 136 were recorded in Aromo Sub-county and Ojwina Division respectively. Those impregnated include school going children.
It is upon this background that government has embarked on enhancing capacities of local leaders and medical professionals so that they can apply human rights standards and principles in programming and budgeting processes to address issues of teenage pregnancies.
Local government officials, after being trained, are expected to mobilise and provide the youth with the required information to enable them contribute to national development.
The ministry of Health has also designed interventions to ensure that the youth are disengaged in those activities that put their bodies at risk.
The goal is, among others, to break the cycle of children having children.
Local leaders have noted that teenage pregnancy challenges cut across the entire Lango sub-region.
In a bid to address these alarming trends, UN Human Rights (UNHR) last week trained community development officers, the chief administrative officers and district health officers in all the eight districts.
Participants from Lira, Amolatar and Alebtong districts admitted that little is being done to fight the alarming rate of teenage pregnancy in the area.
Recently, Mr Alex Oremo, the Lira District chairman, considered lack of sex education as the main cause, confessing that his administration had done nothing to address the problem.
A senior planner at the Health ministry, Mr James Mugisha, told this newspaper last week that the ministry has come up with a “comprehensive plan” to reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies in the country.
“We had targeted that we would reduce teenage pregnancies from the then prevalence to somewhere around 20 per 1,000 but we only achieve 24 per 1, 000,” he said in an interview in Lira Town.
Although the ministry did not achieve its target in the last financial years, Mr Mugisha said there was no cause for alarm.
“We are on track and we are going to intensify the messages. We are going to intensify the activities and mobilise the youth to make sure that they are involved in development,” he said.
More than 300,000 teenagers who get pregnant account for the bulk of unwanted pregnancies, which end up in unintended births or abortion, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2011 report.
Currently, one of four girls aged 15 to 19 is already a mother or pregnant with her first child.
There have been concerns that women are unable to make independent decisions to positively influence their reproductive health, resulting to unwanted adolescent pregnancies and abortions.
Local leaders are also expected to mobilise mothers and husbands to participate in equal decision making at household level. Ms Hilda Oyella, a human rights officer with UNHR, is optimistic that Uganda could still significantly reduce maternal death rate if capacities of all local governments are strengthened.
According to the 2015 Evaluation Report on Uganda Performance under the Millennium Development Goals, close to 438 per 100,000 women reportedly died while giving birth due to preventable causes.
“So we hope that if we strengthen capacities of local governments in training them on human rights standards and principles applicable to sexual reproductive health, they will begin to have a new dimension on how best they can plan but more importantly responding to the human rights concerns that affect women,” Ms Oyella said.
Mr Mugisha further said the country could have made tremendous progress in terms of health care access if leaders had not been making “selfish” decisions. “And when they [leaders] occupy those offices and they abuse them. They are unfair by not taking decisions in the public interests,” he said.
In line with the Member States’ new commitment under the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, Kampala committed itself to reduce maternal death to 70 or less by 2030.
“So it is an uphill task and we need to bring on board different stakeholders to be able to solve the problem and ultimately reduce maternal deaths,” Ms Oyella said.
High rates. More than 1,170 teenage girls in Lira District were reported to have been impregnated in a span of three months in 2015 .
No intervention. According to Mr Oremo, the lack of intervention and sex education among the youth has contributed to the increasing number of teenage pregnancies in the district.