FEATURE: Understanding the Worrying Rate of Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda

Teenage pregnancy is among the many reasons why there are gender inequalities in accessing education in Uganda with high dropout rates for girls compared to the boys. In many cases, and this is resultant of young girls being forced into early marriages for material benefits expected by the parents while in other instances pregnancies are caused by rape.

When this happens, healing the victims of such early pregnancies suffer various risks among them health related complications.

ChimpReports spoke to Marie Stopes Uganda’s Communications Manager Faith Kyateka to understand the rate at which teenage pregnancy is a problem for Uganda and what needs to be done to reduce its prevalence.
Marie Stopes Uganda is among the leading providers of sexual and reproductive health solutions through their outreaches to health facilities across the country.

According to Kyateka, Uganda has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the Sub Saharan Africa region with 24 percent being pregnant before the age of 18. This implies that at least one in every 10 pregnant women in Uganda is under 18.

Marie Stopes attributes the worrying rates in teenage pregnancy to limited awareness of reproductive health information, health misconceptions and limited use of condoms among young people.

“There’s also a lot of cross generational sex especially among university students. When girls engage in sexual relationships with older men, they often have less negotiating power on protected sex.”

“It is also important to note that health facilities where these young people would be seeking care lack youth friendly services. Young girls are therefore not comfortable to go and ask about these methods,”
Kyateka told Chimpreports.

She adds that some facilities lack the trained personnel in sexual and reproductive health which further exacerbates the problem.

Faith Kyateka, the Communications Manager at Marie Stopes Uganda
Faith Kyateka, the Communications Manager at Marie Stopes Uganda

Marie Stopes has however made attempts to bridge the existing gaps in access to reproductive health information through their 16 clinics spread across Uganda.

“Each of our clinics has youth friendly corners where young people can engage in other activities such as interactive games. This way they feel comfortable to visit the clinic each time they have problems as well as inviting their friends,” Kyateka adds.

Absence of services that are friendly to young people has been cited by several NGOs and other stakeholders in health care as the cause for stigmatization for other sexual related problems like HIV/AIDS.

In addition to establishing clinics, as a way of further easing access to information Marie Stopes created a  toll free hotline through which people can channel their health concerns. The hotline (0800 120 333) is open Monday to Sunday and it offers counselling in English and all local languages.

Pregnancy for those under age presents long term effects and risks according to Kyateka. She says these young bodies are usually not prepared for the 9 months pregnancy process and later conception. There’s also high chances for these teenagers suffering from fistula during and after pregnancy.

“Pregnancy disrupts these girls from their education which affects them economically in the long term. This sustains the viscious cycle of poverty,” she notes.

Much as organizations like Marie Stopes have helped in partly offering solutions, there’s much more needed on the part of government, policy makers and other stakeholders to wipe out this problem. The young people must also learn to take responsible choices and seek information especially by leveraging on their growing use of the internet.

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