In a concerning development, at least 1,432 teenagers in Luweero district have reported to health centers for antenatal care after conceiving in the past four months, according to a district report.
This alarming statistic includes 13 girls below 15 years and 1,419 aged between 15 to 19 years, indicating an average of at least 11 girls seeking antenatal services daily after becoming pregnant.
The report, covering the period from July to October 2023, highlights areas with the highest teenage pregnancy rates. Luweero town council leads with 301 cases, followed by Bombo town council with 156, and Kikyusa sub-county recording 147 cases. Other affected areas include Kalagala sub-county with 143 cases, Zirobwe sub-county with 130, and Katikamu sub-county with 111.
Florence Namuyanja, Luwero district health assistant in Charge of Maternal Health, explained that many of these pregnancies result from sexual relations with close relatives, teachers and friends. The girls are receiving counseling to prepare for childbirth and to avoid stigmatization by adult mothers.
Namuyanja also noted that the actual number of teenage pregnancies might be higher, as some girls opt for traditional birth attendants, fearing legal repercussions for their partners. In Luweero hospital, a teenage mother shared that peer influence led to her pregnancy, while another cited the lack of basic facilities at home as a contributing factor.
Joyce Namigadde, Luweero district probation officer, observed that most pregnant teens drop out of school and face health complications during delivery. She pointed out the underreporting of defilement cases due to compromises or intimidation by relatives.
Namigadde warned of a potential rise in teenage pregnancies during holidays and urged parents to educate their children about the risks of early sexual activity and to monitor their exposure to television and social media.
One parent from Kikyusa sub- county expressed frustration over the legal system, recounting how her 13-year-old daughter’s defiler, a teacher, was released on bail after just four months in remand. She criticized the bail system for setting a dangerous precedent that emboldens potential abusers.
Brenda Nabukenya, Luweero district Woman member of parliament, emphasized the need for local government regulation of entertainment venues to prevent underage access. She also advocated for parliamentary discussions on policies allowing school dropouts to access contraceptives, aiming to reduce the rising number of teenage pregnancies.
The Luweero health report further revealed that in the 2022/23 financial year, at least 42 girls below 15 and 4,480 below 19 years became pregnant, underlining the severity of the issue in the district.