Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 33 teenage girls in Acholi are being made pregnant everyday since the lockdown when they stopped going to school.
In all so far, a whopping 4,000 girls in the Acholi sub-region have become pregnant in four months of the lockdown an average of a thousand girls conceiving every month and 33 per day.
The statistics obtained from Human Rights Focus who gathered them in the 6 districts indicate that 4062 young girls became pregnant since the lockdown started late March up to mid-August 2020.
Lamwo district presents a higher number with 1,000 girls followed by Pader with 920, Agago 730, Nwoya 640, Amuru 620 while Gulu comparatively registered low cases with only 150 girls being made pregnant.
Francis Odongyoo, the executive director of Human Rights Focus says most of the cases are linked to poverty while some girls sought to become pregnant fearing that Covid-19 will kill them without children and they needed one atleast.
Geoffrey Okello, the executive director for Gulu NGO Forum says the lockdown has increased vulnerability of people exposing the girl child to higher risk of sexual abuses and forced marriages.
He says his own boy who qualified to join University this year has impregnated a colleague in Senior Four and describes the level of teen pregnancies in the region as unprecedented.
“I was a bit lucky that the girl was slightly above 18 but I can tell you I have to take the full responsibility and the boy is equally devastated” Okello told Uganda Radio Network on Thursday in an interview.
Nicolas Ogwang, the Uganda Human Rights Commission regional officer for North revealed that the Commission is seeking to partner with the cultural institutions in the region to address the phenomenon.
“We have seen the problem and its immense and that’s why we need to engage the tradition leaders who even sometimes officiate such marriages so that they prioritize girl child education instead” Ogwang revealed.
Betty Aol Ocan, the Leader of Opposition and the Woman Member of Parliament in Gulu has called on the parents to provide guidance to children and to protect them.
“Child marriage denies a girl opportunity to complete school and realize her full potential and we shall all stand against it if we want to build a culture where men and women are treated equally” Aol said.
Micheal Lakony, the Amuru district chairman says the district saw the rising cases of teen pregnancies as early as March and embarked on a door to door sensitization using the local leaders and village health workers.
Tuku Pee- Joseph, the area LCI chairman of Ogali village in Amuru sub county says they have rescued 3 girls who were already married off and tracing 7 more who disappeared a month ago.
“Those we are following are between the ages of 14 to 16 and are in primary six and seven but we have spent a month in tracing their whereabouts so far,” Tuku-pee added.
In Gulu district, Philiphs Ongwec Agella, the local councilor II for Pagik parish in Paicho sub county says 15 girls in his area were married off since lockdown was announced in the country.