The current teenage pregnancy rate in Omoro district stands at 28 per cent per annum, which towers high above the national average of 25 per cent.
“This 28 per cent teenage pregnancy rate is very scaring to us because. Omoro district also has higher rates than other districts in the northern Uganda which stand at 27 per cent,” the District Chairman Peter Douglas Okello acknowledges during an interview.
The leading causes of death and disability among Ugandan female adolescents aged 15 to 19 years are pregnancy complications, unsafe abortions, and childbirth. Despite these statistics, our understanding of how girls perceive adolescent pregnancy is limited, according to Global Qualitative Nursing Research report published in August, 2017.
Okello said in their 2015-2017 survey focusing on retention and school dropout rate of girls in Northern Uganda, Omoro district reported the highest number of teenage pregnancies.
This was blamed on high illiteracy levels, war, poverty, cultural norms and beliefs.
“The major factors that lead to 28 per cent teenage pregnancy is the two decades of war in northern Uganda, which led to child-headed families in our community, who are not able to provide for themselves,” Okllo said. “The only option that the girls think of, is to get married at a very early stage to get money”.
High levels of poverty in northern Uganda were confirmed by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in its annual report last year.
“In northern Uganda, they look at girls as source of wealth. Parents force them into marriage to get cows and money. Then girls end up with teenage pregnancies and many die in labour,” Okello said.
He said the district has now launched a campaign to promote girl child education to mitigate the high dropout rate of girls. They are also promoting school hygiene because some girls drop out of school when they start having menstruation periods.
“We are also demystifying the cultural belief about girl child education. To achieve this we work closely with cultural, religious and education institutions,” Okello said.
Jotham Musinguzi, the Director General National Population Council (NPC) said they are going to make sure that girls remain in schools. He was speaking on April 5 at Sheraton hotel in Kampala during the launch of the 2018 World Population Day slated to be marked in Omoro district on July 11.
Musinguzi said Omoro was chosen as a venue because it’s a new district with the highest number of teenage pregnancies. They want to deal with the problem by creating awareness, he said.
“We also want the head of state to go there and see what is happening on the ground and give support to them,” he said.
The theme for this year’s celebrations is “Leaving Nobody Behind; Improving Service Delivery and Accountability”.
Musinguzi said, NPC working together with UNFPA and other key stakeholders, is in the final stages of developing a roadmap to guide the country on how to harness the demographic dividend Uganda enjoys.
“We need to accelerate a fertility decline and make strategic investments in education, health, job creation and governance,” he said.
Musinguzi said, although the country’s current population is 40 million, the total fertility rate has come down to 5.4 per cent. Previously, it had stood at around seven children per woman.
“There is some change in the population. Contraceptives Prevalence Rate (CPR) is also going up and it’s about 35 per cent. The couples using contraceptives have increased due to awareness. Maternal and child mortality has also gone down due to improved health services,” he said.
Musinguzi said the most challenging issue is Uganda’s age structure where we have more dependents; many children compared to adults in the working population and this will increase poverty.
“We need to change the age structure, have more working people than dependents. Once we do that, government will create more jobs, better education and Uganda benefit from its growing population,” Musinguzi said.
UNFPA Country Representative Alain Sibenaler said, they are also going to support Omoro district by delivering services on youth and family planning counseling. Pychosocial support to survivors of genderbased violence.