KAMPALA – Uganda will on 30th September 2023 join the World to commemorate World Contraception Day 2023 – an annual event commemorated worldwide to raise awareness on the need to improve access and utilisation of Contraception as an essential Health service.
The National celebrations will be held in Kyenjojo district under the theme, “Breaking Barriers, Embracing Choices for Youth.”
During a press briefing ahead of the celebrations, Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre (NTIHC) decried limited access to contraceptives as one of the key drivers of increased teenage pregnancy numbers.
Ms. Esther Makula, Communications Officer at the Centre noted that this year’s theme highlights the urgent need to eliminate obstacles that hinder young people’s access to contraceptives.
“Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptives, is not just a matter of choice; it is a fundamental human right,” she noted.
According to her, in Uganda, one in four women give birth by the age of nineteen and about half of these pregnancies are unintended.
“Teenage childbearing has existed in Uganda for several decades. If no action is taken to reduce teenage pregnancy in Uganda by instituting measures to reduce childhood sexual abuse and exploitation, then teenage pregnancy will continue with 50% of teenage girls at risk each year.”
“Teenage mothers may continue to suffer the most from deaths arising from abortions due to Gender Based Violence (48% of these deaths are teens). About 64% of teenage mothers will not complete primary education level and about 47% of teenage mothers will end up in peasant agriculture work,” she added.
At the Centre, Ms. Makula revealed that they are seeing young people presenting with pregnancy mainly because they cannot access these services and do not receive enough information about sexual reproductive health.
“With support from partners, we are using a youth-friendly model to extend these services to young people in different parts of the country. We pledge to provide access to information about contraceptive use.”
Dr. Charles Olaro – Director Health Services – Curative Services at the Ministry of Health underscored that the country has registered some success in increasing access and utilization of modern contraception.
He says that the modern contraceptive prevalence rate has improved from 30.4% in 2016 to 38% in 2022 among the married.
“Amongst the unmarried, we have also registered an improvement from 40% to 43%. This is in line with the FP2030 commitments of attaining a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 50% by 2030.”
“All these gains have had a positive direct impact on the reproductive health of Ugandans as the total fertility rate continues to drop from 6.9 live births per woman in 2000 to 5.2 in 2022. Teenage pregnancy rates also slightly improved from 25% to 24% despite the challenges of COVID-19.”
He acknowledged that ensuring access to reproductive health information and services to all individuals, including young people is not just a matter of choice but rather a matter of fundamental rights and public health.
“It is essential we foster an environment where youth can access information on Sexual Reproductive Health and contraceptives for those in need, without stigma, discrimination, or judgment.”
However, the Ministry decried negative influences including; negative social-cultural norms, taboos, misinformation, peer-to-peer influences, myths and misconceptions and poor attitudes towards those in need of services – all hindering progress towards universal Family planning coverage.
Dr. Olaro is optimistic that the World Contraception Day commemorations will serve as a platform to raise awareness about the benefits of using contraceptives amongst vulnerable youths as a means to preventing and ending the scourge of teenage pregnancies.
“It will also provide an opportunity for community gatekeepers to reflect on how their roles and attitudes influence access and utilisation of Contraceptives.”
The Ministry pledged support for all efforts by the government to promote Contraceptive use amongst vulnerable, out-of-school youths as a means to preventing and ending teenage pregnancy.