KAMPALA – The Government of Uganda has pledged continued support towards youth empowerment to equip them with the right skills which will turn reduce teenage and unintended pregnancies.
The commitment was made by Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja, while officiating at the launch of two reports; The Economic and Social Burden of Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda; The Cost of Inaction’ and The State of the World Population Report 2022 entitled, ‘Seeing the Unseen: The Case for Action in the Neglected Crisis of Unintended Pregnancy.
The hoping to change lives reports were launched by the United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA at Sheraton Hotel Kampala on April 12, 2022.
Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Regional Director East and Southern Africa revealed that unintended pregnancies have significant and broad ramifications for individuals, families and societies.
“They have serious personal repercussions for the women and girls affected including on their health, education and wellbeing. Many resort to unsafe abortions like my former patients. All these have broader human rights and development implications for countries and the world as a whole.”
“For UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health agency, a world where every pregnancy is wanted is a central pillar of our mission. Thus, the State of the World Population report 2022, entitled ‘Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy,’ brings to the fore the plight of individuals – women and girls who are unable to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, and regrettably lack bodily autonomy,” he added.
The State of World Population report 2022 demonstrates that nearly a quarter of all women are unable to say no to sex. Nearly a quarter are unable to make decisions about their own health care.
It shows that close to half of all pregnancies in the world are unintended – amounting to 121 million pregnancies every year.
The data indicates that, for the women and girls affected, whether or not to become pregnant, is no choice at all. The situation further deteriorated under the shadow of the COVID pandemic.
In the first 12 months of the crisis, data shows that the disruption of supplies and services lasted on average 3.6 months, leading to as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.
Dr. Ndyanabangi says that in East and Southern Africa, the most recent data show that close to half of the women (48%) lack the power to make decisions on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – when to seek reproductive health care, when to have sex and when and if to use contraception.
“A quarter of women in the ESA region, 49 million women, 2 million of them in Uganda, want to stop or delay childbearing but are not using a method of contraception – commonly referred to as the unmet need for family planning. Only a third of sexually active women in the ESA region use a modern method of contraception.”
He revealed that girls who lack choices and opportunities in life, or who have limited or no access to sexual and reproductive health care, are more likely to become pregnant.
“Girls forced into child marriage – a violation of their human rights – are also more likely to become pregnant. In developing countries, nine out of 10 births to adolescent girls occur within a marriage or a union. Close to a third of adolescent girls in this region are married before age 18.”
Nabbanja reminded that Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 75% aged below 30 years which presents both opportunities and challenges.
“If the right investments are made to ensure that the young people are healthy, properly educated and appropriately skilled, Uganda stands to benefit from them. If on the other hand we don’t make the right investment, we stand to lose.”
She said that the launch of these two reports is timely as the country and the World starts to recover from the COVID 19 Pandemic and its related health and socio-economic challenges.
“The study on teenage pregnancies is even more timely since the national launch of the Campaign to address defilement, child marriage, teenage pregnancy and to promote positive parenting that I presided over last year.”
She is, however, optimistic the recently launched Parish Development Model – PDM will be a game-changer for improving household incomes and putting the 39 percent of Uganda’s population that is currently in the subsistence economy into the money economy.
“We strongly believe that young girls from families which have some level of comfortable income can be able to resist the temptations that lead them into unsafe and unprotected sex that leads to unwanted teenage pregnancies.”
“…even women who have an income can be able to make choices on when to have babies and ensure that they get safe pregnancies and safe deliveries,” she added.
Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo, UN Country Resident Coordinator said Uganda has made remarkable progress in the achievement of the SDGs having been one of the first countries to integrate SDGs in the national frameworks.
“Currently the new NDPIII is well aligned to the SDGs and as the new Parish Development Model is introduced, the UN is looking at general areas for GoU-UN partnership on the Parish Development Model implementation.”
She said that the Parish Model Approach aligns with the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) accelerators of “leave no one behind” and “reaching those furthest behind” especially women, girls and youth.
She, however, said she is aware of the issues of sexual reproductive health and rights at the centre of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA).
She said as UN System in Uganda, they have responded to the call through four flagship areas including UN Youth Flagship Area – aimed at empowering adolescents and youth in Uganda to unleash their full potential, Data and Statistics for SDGs Flagship Area, Gender Flagship Area – by contributing to addressing Gender Inequality and Gender-Based Violence and Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordination Flagship Area – which focuses on emergency preparedness and response coordination outside the refugee response areas, in areas prone to national disasters such as floods and landslides.
Ms. Karin Boven, the ambassador of the Netherlands in Uganda said that the increased occurrence of teenage pregnancy, reminds them of the gender-based vulnerabilities, marginalization and inequalities, that women and girls face in day-to-day life.
She said that the pandemic deepened inequalities and threatened efforts to leave no one behind, more importantly, the adolescent girl who has already survived teenage pregnancy or at risk of it.
She revealed that the report on the Economic and social burden of Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda, gives insight into the cost of inaction, on teenage pregnancies that;
- 50% of teenage girls will be at risk of getting pregnant each year, if childhood sexual abuse is not reduced.
- About 64% of teenage mothers will not complete primary education level.
- About 60% of teenage mothers will end up in peasant agriculture work.
- Annually more than UGX. 645 billion (181.8 Million USD) will be spent by the Government of Uganda on healthcare for teen mothers and the education of their children
Ms. Karin said it is crucial to strengthen multisector collaboration.
“A well-coordinated and accountable multisector response, is crucial for the investments that will be made, to be effective.”
She also called for the consciousness of the fact that adolescent girls are not a homogenous group.