KUMI – On June 7, while giving the State of the Nation address, President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda had attained the economic indicators putting it at the threshold for lower-middle-income status.
This, he repeated on budget day, saying that an ordinary Ugandan now earns $1,045 (Shs 3.8 million) per year
This was, however, days later retracted by the World Bank in the 19th Uganda economic update, which showed that the country was yet to achieve the required figures to join the middle-income countries. The report outs Uganda’s per capita income at $850 (Shs 3.1 million).
Speaking at the World Population Day commemoration on Monday 11, 2022, at Kumi, Boma Grounds – Kumi District, Mr. President insisted that Uganda’s GDP per capita increased to US Dollars 1,046, which is equivalent to Uganda Shs. 3.7 million per person per year.
“We have therefore passed the threshold for becoming a lower-middle-income country. The entrance point to the lower-middle-income status is USD 1,036. This is a big achievement.”
This year’s national celebrations were focused on raising awareness against teenage pregnancies and early marriages under the national theme, “Mindset Change for Wealth Creation: Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy.”
Museveni, who was represented by Premier Robinah Nabbanja said that child marriage and teenage pregnancy “are the true enemies of our becoming an upper-middle-income country.”
He said that to address many of the problems facing the citizens must first deal with the issue of poverty eradication and socio-economic transformation.
“…first and foremost begins with mindset change; enabling as many Ugandans to transform their thinking from working for the stomach to working with an intention of earning money beyond just sustaining life. We need to integrate more Ugandans into the money economy.”
He encouraged Ugandans to take advantage of the existing Government programmes in order to create wealth “instead of marrying off young girls to get bride price.”
Nonetheless, Museveni is happy that Ugandans are now healthier and living longer.
“Life expectancy in Uganda has increased by 20 years in one generation, from 43 years in 1991 to 63.3 years in 2016. Resulting from this, Uganda’s population increased from 14 million people in 1986 to 45 million people currently. This population is projected to reach 50 million people by 2025 and 102 million by 2050.”
“As a result of increased immunization against the killer diseases, fewer children are now dying from preventable diseases. Infant mortality rate has reduced from 122 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. In fact, this is one of the development goals, where Uganda has performed very well.”
According to him, the number of women dying in childbirth and pregnancy-related concerns reduced from 506 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 336 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Mary Otieno, United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA Country Representative said that the challenges of teenage pregnancy and child marriages are not conducive for wealth creation and a prosperous Uganda.
She reminded that keeping girls in school is one of the game changers to postpone on-set of childbirth and provide information and knowledge to make informed choices about their reproduction.
On this, she commended Mr. President on his recent address to the Nation on the 14th June, 2022, when he expressed concern about the high school dropout of children at primary and secondary level. Museveni made a pronouncement that from 2023/24 financial year, funds be put into free and compulsory primary and secondary education to stop the high school dropout rates.
“Teenage pregnancy is a major health, social and economic issue that has affected many young people, their families, communities and countries globally. We are aware that in Uganda, one in four girls gives birth by the age of nineteen, in Teso region where we are today, the teenage pregnancy rates are much higher than the national average, at 31 percent compared to the national 25% (UDHS 2016). Half of these pregnancies, (46 percent) are unintended and unplanned. Many of these are a result of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence, a clear indication that we are failing adolescent girls,” said Dr. Otieno.
According to her, in Uganda, by the age of 21, many young people, especially in rural areas, have had at least 3 children and lack the means to postpone or delay or stop any unintended or unwanted pregnancy.
“For the individual teenager, early childbearing has potential to disrupt their development into adulthood. It impacts negatively on their educational aspirations, livelihoods, health and future social-economic productivity. The households and communities are compelled to shoulder an extra burden in supporting the young mother and her child but also lose the dividends due to early motherhood intersected with childhood.”
H.E. Joost Van Ettro – Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands in Uganda noted that an increased occurrence of teenage pregnancy and child marriage, is one of the problems, Uganda is confronted with, following the Covid 19 pandemic.
He said that productive Human Capital is an essential requirement for a country’s economic growth and development, arguing that, “Teenage pregnancy and child marriage rob Uganda of its potential Human Capital.”
“Ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage will save the country more money for investment.”
He called for improved implementation of the National Sexuality Education Framework and access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
“Better access to sexuality education and, youth-friendly sexual reproductive health services, are proven strategies to reduce teenage pregnancy and also HIV infection among young people.”
Van also urged the government on strengthening a multisector approach, collaboration and accountability in tackling the problem.
Kumi District Chairperson, Nelson Elungat Lakol revealed that in the year 2020, the registered deliveries under 19 years were 1723, increased to 2099 and reduced to 573 in the next two years respectively. Today, he says the teenage pregnancy rate in his district is at 21.5% compared to the previous two years; 2021 and 2020 when it was at 22.3% and 20.3% respectively.
The leaders in Teso-sub region indicate that the major causes of teenage pregnancy in the sub-region include; gender-based violence individual behaviour of children, low socio-economic status (livelihood), limited education levels, early sexual encounter, poor parenting, rape and use of drugs.
Bukedea district chairman, Mr. Olemukan Moses says that in his district, children constitute 57% of the total population.
This results into high dependence burden coupled with poverty, limiting the provision of basic needs for the children and especially the girl child thus getting exposed and men taking advantage of their sorry situations.