Talk about sex in churches, the figure remains alarmingly high for Uganda.
The alarm was raised recently as Uganda joined other countries in commemorating safe motherhood day. It was noted however that 25% of all pregnancies happening among under age girls makes Uganda with the highest number of girls who become mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Godfrey Walakira, the Training and Development Manager at Straight Talk Foundation, said that early marriages are driven mostly by early marriages, early initiation into sex and lack of sexual reproductive health information.
Walakira noted that although many of the young people become sexually active at an early stage, many of them don’t get access to accurate information about reproductive health such as using contraceptives.
“Only a few of public health centres offer youth friendly sexual reproductive health services. For instance 54 % of the young think that a young girl cannot conceive on her first day of sexual intercourse,” said Walakira.
He added that rural girls are at an increased risk of being falling victims of teenage pregnancy compared to their urban counterparts. This is because of the relative low level of awareness in the rural settings compared to urban environments.
“The situation is worse than what we see in the national statistics; you can actually find that in one school in rural communities, about 30 girls get pregnant in a single year. So we need to pull-up our socks.”
The State Minister for Primary Health care, Sarah Opendi acknowledges that because of the serious health implications on the country’s population, it is imperative to ensure that all health facilities provide youth friendly sexual reproductive health services.
She pledged her ministry’s willingness to promote youth friendly services across the country saying; “It is important if we are to address maternal and child health issues in this country.”
“We are going to work closely with our partners that provide youth friendly services in some districts to ensure that at every health centre IV, III and district hospitals we provide the youth health friendly services so that our youths can be able to go and get information at those facilities,” Opendi promised.
60% of teenagers play sex
The health minister expressed concern over the high rate of girls and boys engaging in sexual intercourse before the age of consent. Opendi said that 60% of girls and boys before the age of 18 have had sex something that exposes them to early pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Fistula and other maternal health complications.
The latest Health Sector Performance report released in October 2014, has shown that early pregnancies are associated with several complications during labour that include heamorrhage, abortion and uterine rapture.
The situation is made worse by the fact that many health centres lack the facilities and required skills to operate on teen mothers many of whom cannot push the baby.
In 2014/15 financial year for example, Mubende hospital recorded the highest number of maternal deaths in the country of 34 deaths which is equivalent to 1 out of every 116 deliveries.
The Mubende hospital director Dr. Edward Nkuruziza attributed the high number to lack of qualified staff especially midwives and anaesthetists.
But the district woman MP Benny Namugwanya added that the complications arise from high level of teenage pregnancies, which she said exposes them to complications since they cannot push.
Maternal mortality remains a major blot on the health map of Uganda as many as 438 women out of every 100,000 deliveries still die in the process of bringing life.
With just one year left to the set UN millennium development goals target of reducing by three quarters the number of women dying in labour is unlikely to be met. This is because Uganda has made only marginal progress in this area by reducing deaths from 505 in 1995, base year, to 438 currently. Uganda’s target for 2015 is 131 per 100,000 births.
Minister Opendi however stressed the need for concerted efforts to address the teenage pregnancies if the country.
She also challenged parents, religious leaders and the media for not playing their role in educating the gullible youth against engaging in reckless and risky sex.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) County Representative Esperance Fundira condemned the culture of forcing young girls into early marriages by some parents, saying that this not only denies the young girls their right to education but also exposes them to other dangers of teenage pregnancies.
Fundira stresses the need to help girls attend school and stay enrolled until completion of secondary education, because education is one of the most effective ways of delaying marriage and pregnancy until adulthood. In addition to this, women activists have also called for supporting girls that have given birth to return to school so that they can get their lives back.
Talk about sex in churches – Father advises
Father Peter Mubiru a catholic priest from Jinja Diocese strongly believes that his colleagues should not shy away from talking about issues related to reproductive health in a church setting.
Mubiru challenged the clergy to invite and give opportunity to health professionals to use their pulpits to openly talk about these issues.
Although he says that catholic church is not against contraceptives per say, for instance condom use for married couples, Mubiru maintains that people especially the young people should also exercise self control in regard sexual behaviour stressing that it is not all about pregnancies but also the safety of their lives.