By Abushedde Angella
As part of the Sharpened Plan on Maternal Health and Adolescent Health Policy, the Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Sarah Opendi has unveiled a 12-month national campaign to prevent teenage pregnancies from 24% to 15% by July 2015.
“The Ministry of Health has identified teenage pregnancies as one of the causes for the high maternal mortality rate in Uganda. As a ministry, we are committed to the provision of quality health care services to all people including adolescents and teenagers,” said Opendi.
According to the last national census, about 56% of Uganda’s population is below 18 years of age and 70% are below the age of 24 years. Uganda loses about 6000 women due to pregnancy or pregnancy related causes annually. Uganda Demographic Health Survey estimates that 24% of these 6000 women are adolescents and this is worsened by the fact that only 11% of these adolescents have access to reproductive health and family planning services.
“These alarming rates of teenage pregnancies are a major cause of concern and are a threat to national development,” said Opendi. Uganda is one of the countries with the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Ministry of Health, the primary cause of teenage pregnancy is unprotected sexual intercourse.
The unwanted and unplanned pregnancies resulting from this situation have put the lives of young girls and teenage mothers at risk of various complications such as difficult delivery, high blood pressure, fistula, under weight babies and death. If effectively implemented, the campaign will reduce maternal mortality from 537 to 131 maternal deaths per 100000 live births.
The campaign under the theme “Let Girls be Girls” will aim at encouraging all girls to stay in school to acquire education, abstaining from sex until they are old enough, encouraging young mothers to go back and complete school, promoting sexual education in schools to help girls manage peer pre4ssure that influences them to engage in early sex practices, providing access to emergency obstetric care and encouraging young mothers to attend at least four antenatal care visits.