Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A section of leaders in Acholi sub region want parents to be harshly held responsible for child pregnancies in the community.
They allege that the increasing cases of child pregnancies in the region especially Amuru, Kitgum, Pader, Omoro and Nwoya districts are linked to permissiveness resulting from irresponsible parenting in the wake of national lockdown against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
For instance, data compiled by the Education and Health Department of Pader district indicates that since Match to date, up to 930 girls were made pregnant. Arguably, the vice is being fueled by low socio-economic status and illiteracy education.
The District Health Officer – DHO Dr. Alex Layoo, explains that other factors are environmental, including laxity in parenting and lack of reproductive health awareness and early sexual activity among adolescent girls in the district.
Dr. Layoo proposes, while intensified sensitization is urgently needed – harsh punitive measures should be instituted against any parent whose child has been married off or impregnated so as to put an end to child abuse.
Dusman Okee, the Resident District Commissioner says targeting parents to be answerable to incidences of child abuses would be a better strategy to strengthen community vigilance against the vice as a result of irresponsible parenting.
Filder Mary Lakereber, the Head teacher of Kiteny Owalo Primary School in Gulu district disclosed to URN that already four pupils at the school have been confirmed married off and others made pregnant during the lockdown.
Nighty Lalodi, the chairperson of Pupwonya Primary School in Amuru district divulged to URN that six girls at the school have also been confirmed pregnant. She blames the vice on the lock-down that has rendered learners redundant.
Meanwhile, Immaculate Nalubyayi, an Advocacy and Communications Officer with Save the Children – Uganda regional office in Gulu, says the prevalence of child abuse is pronounced country wide and they are compiling the statistics for evidence based advocacy.
Patrick Jimmy Okema, the Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson confirmed that several cases and arrests of offenders who perpetuate child abuses have been registered though the full statistics have not yet been compiled.
Weak implementation of the Penal Code Act (which criminalizes sexual intercourse with girls below 18 years) and the Uganda National Adolescent Reproductive Health Policy by government institutions and a lack of community, social support and poverty are some of the determinants of teenage pregnancy.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), defines teenage pregnancy as “a teenage girl, usually within the ages of 13-19, becoming pregnant and refers to girls who have not reached legal adulthood, which varies across the world”.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most of the teenage pregnancies are associated with complications such as preterm labour, intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight, neonatal death, obstructed labour, genital fistula and eclampsia.