Moyo district grapples with rising teenage pregnancies

todayAugust 2, 2021

By Ronald Orachwun

Moyo district is grappling with the rising cases of teenage pregnancies as families brave the adverse effects of the corona virus lockdown.

This was after recording 529 cases of teenage pregnancies in the last two quarters during the lockdown as a result of covid-19. The most affected girls are children of school going age between 16 to 17 years.

Ameko Jimmy Wale the senior probation and social services welfare officer Moyo district attributes this rise negligence by parents and mismanagement of files by Police officers.

“Cases of teenage pregnancies are on the rise especially in the last two quarters mainly because of two things. One is that our parents are not doing enough; some of our parents are very negative about the development of their girl children and this is giving rise to all these increased rate of teenage pregnancies. The second issue is that there are also cases in Police especially the CID section which are not properly handled. Currently there is a case of aggravated defilement, but the man has never been arrested. I understand money has exchanged hands. This man is supposed to be arrested and produced in court when and taken for remand until when hearings are open”, he said.

Palma Ayia the senior inspector of schools Moyo district says despite 529 cases of teenage pregnancies being during the COVID-19 lockdown in the district in the last two quarters, the numbers could be higher given the fact some parents tend to settle defilement cases out of court with the perpetrators of the vice.

“The situation is real and we are overwhelmed by such reports. I think parent are not doing enough. The parents have neglected their parental roles and if we continue like this, we are losing the fight in building responsible people in the future”, she said.
Otce Sub County is the leading hot spot for teenage pregnancies in Moyo district with over 208 cases. The authorities are worried about the future of the said persons if the trend continues.

The Sub County leadership has a by-law in place but its implementation has remained under the shelves.

Worrying trend
Moyo district is currently struggling to curb the high teenage pregnancies and high school dropout rates, which are affecting the district’s education targets, with some parents who are abetting the vice by playing it cool with the perpetrators of the vice and consequently frustrating the target of retaining school-going children in school.

According to Moraga Benson from AFOD a lot of cases of teenage pregnancies have gone un-reported.

“Most of these girls who are falling victim to the vice are actually children who are supposed to be in school under normal circumstances. I think our parents are the ones failing us. I would personally recommend that parents who force their under aged girls into early marriages should be arrested and prosecuted together with the perpetrators. We want to see a scenario where most if not all the girls who enroll to school should complete their education cycle, save for the corona virus disruptions”, he said.

The figures
Studies by organizations like Twaweza have shown the grim figures of social ills during the corona virus pandemic, as Uganda battles the second wave of the disease. Close to 80 percent of the people say teenage pregnancy increased during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Twaweza’s Sauti Za Wanainchi survey conducted in Kampala, Kyotera and Tororo indicate that 79 percent of Ugandan citizens reported that teenage pregnancy was a major problem during the corona virus pandemic.
A significant 49 percent of men and 53 percent women, while another 43 percent of men and 49 percent women said emotional violence and sexual violence were major problems during the corona virus pandemic, with the men urged to observe these increases, given that these are largely acts that are perpetuated by men on women.
Dr. Richard Mugahi, the assistant commissioner Reproductive and Infant Health at the Ministry of Health said, "The Government of Uganda is keenly aware of how women have faced a disproportionate burden when it comes to the pandemic. We are pleased to see that men have also observed these challenges and look forward to trying to advance the discussion around gender and women's roles in our families, communities and societies."

Other statistics
Media reports indicate that a total of 208 teenage girls between 15-19 years of age were registered in the district from January to May 2020, with the worst hit area included Moyo town council Moyo sub-county and Lefori sub-county.
Child rights activists in Moyo district are concerned that some parents have commercialized defilement and cases of teenage pregnancies and prefer to settle them outside legal confines. This is because some parents prefer receiving hard money, domestic animals and other presents as a form of bride price, thereby failing to report the cases to security authorities for reprimand of the suspects.

Michael Adrawa the assistant district health officer in charge of maternal health Moyo district has called for revamping of the district adolescent health committee whose cardinal roll was to discuss issues affecting adolescents in the district.
According to Adrawa the effects of teenage pregnancies is cross-generational which must be addressed squarely without leaving any stone untouched.

“We are taking this matter lightly but it will have a grave impact in the near future. Besides the cultural blend that we should embrace, we had the district adolescent health committee which we need to revive. Our cultural leaders should also come in and help us in this struggle to uplift our girls”, he said.

The grim reality
According to the Ministry of Health, 25 per cent of Ugandan teenagers become pregnant by the age of 19. Close to half are married before their 18th birthday and continue having babies into their mid-40s. In 2013, Uganda ranked 16th out of 25 countries with the highest rate of child marriages.
Reports of rape and sexual violence increased among women and girls in Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic, while uptake of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) decreased, as reported to the 11th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2021).
In Uganda, COVID-19 restrictions caused a lapse in gender-based violence services, which were not initially prioritized as essential health services during COVID-19 restrictions.
In the six months before COVID-19, 593 girls under the age of 18 reported sexual violence compared to 860 girls in six months during COVID-19. The odds of reporting sexual violence were 1.3 times higher during COVID-19 compared to the preceding six months. There was also a 17percent increase in reported teen pregnancy during the pandemic; however, this was not statistically significant.

Gender-based and sexual violence often go unreported, so the actual increases may have been higher, since this study relied on reports to healthcare workers or a helpline.

COVER PHOTO: Pupils in a class in Arua district. Teenage pregnancy has a become a challenge in Moyo district. Courtesy photo.

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