Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 1,064 teenage girls were reported to have been impregnated in Masaka district during the Covid-19 induced schools holiday.
The victims, according to records at the District Probation Office are adolescent girls aged between 12 and 19.
Masaka District Senior Probations Officer Maria Nagawa says that their report traces figures captured between the months of March and November 2020, the period of the first phase of the lockdown.
Nagawa explains that the figures are traced from official records of expectant mothers who sought antenatal healthcare services at the various health facilities in Masaka district and the city inclusive.
She is however anxious that in reality, the number may even be more than double, owing to the prolonged lockdown and the presence of several other cases that might have remained unreported in communities.
Besides the pregnancies, the report also indicates a total of 688 other forms of human rights abuses against children in the same period. These included cases of child labour, neglect, and torture, and domestic violence that directly caused harm to children among other offenses.
According to Nagawa, although the children returned home as a safeguard against COVID-19, their findings established that a number of them are involved in jobs that even expose them to great risk of contracting the disease, citing dozens of minors who are casually vending face masks on entrances of health facilities.
Nagawa however says that as part of the remedy, they have embarked on a vigorous campaign to provide psychosocial support targeting the victims and their parents, to enable them to recover from the social traumas and restoring their hope.
She explains that they are also looking at possibilities of sourcing for generous persons who can take up responsibilities of looking after the newborn babies, to allow the teenage mothers complete education.
John Baptist Mulindwa, the Masaka district Assistant Education Officer says that they also tasked the teachers to be on the lookout in their communities and provide psychosocial support to learners that have fallen victim to abuse.
Meanwhile, Reverend Father Francis Xavier Lubega, the Masaka Diocesan Schools Inspector says that the Church is using its available communication channels to encourage and guide on proper parenting, which he says has been established as the mission link.
He challenges the parents to keep their children engaged in home-based works as a way of killing the redundancy that can expose them to risky social behavior.