Addressing the Teenage Pregnancy Problem to achieve safe motherhood

In 2006 the First Lady of Uganda Hon Janet K. Museveni and also State Minister for Kalamoja Region, who is also the Patron of Safe Motherhood in Uganda launched the Safe Motherhood Initiative. Since then, the Safe Motherhood Day has been observed under different themes and hosted by different districts. The event has mainly been used to raise awareness on the scope and dimensions of maternal mortality and to galvanize commitment among stakeholders to take steps to address this public health tragedy.

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This year’s national event for Safe Motherhood was hosted in Tororo District.

This year’s theme is “Mobilizing Men as Partners and Champions in Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy”
The theme highlights the need to address teenage pregnancies as a major contributor to maternal deaths. In Uganda today, teenage pregnancy rates currently stand at 24.6% of the total number of pregnancies. Teenage pregnancy occurs due to a number of reasons. Often girls are forced into early marriage and bear children early. Married adolescents are likely to become pregnant and give birth in accordance with social norms. Teenage pregnancy also occurs due to inadequate knowledge on how to prevent pregnancy, inadequate sexuality education and inadequate access to family planning and other reproductive health services. In addition sexual violence among teenage girls also contributes to teenage pregnancy.

Childbirth has serious consequences for teenage girls and their babies as they are less likely to seek skilled care before, during and after childbirth. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years. Pregnant teenage girls are also more likely than older women to have unsafe abortions.
Teenage pregnancy continues to remain one of the significant factors contributing to the High Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates in Uganda hence an obstacle to realization of MDG (Millennium Development Goals) 4&5. The need for universal access to reproductive health was consolidated and augmented by the World summit in 2005, which made universal access to reproductive health by 2015 a target under MDG5.
Uganda’s projected population is about 35million people and about eight 8million, nearly 23% of total population, are women of reproductive age. Our Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) currently stands at 438 per100, 000 live births. This MMR translates to about 6,000 women dying every year due to pregnancy related causes. In Addition, for every woman who dies, six survive with chronic and debilitating ill health, further translating to 16 mothers dying every day while giving life.
The health facility MPDR report (2009-2011) shows that about four in five maternal deaths in Uganda are from direct causes. By far the most outstanding cause of maternal deaths is hemorrhage (including uterine rupture), accounting for almost half (47%) of maternal deaths in health facilities. These deaths are largely preventable through appropriate care at child-birth. Abortion and pregnancy –related sepsis account for one in every five maternal deaths (20%) with about 60% of the abortion cases categorized as induced abortions (unsafe abortions). The major risk factors for this high mortality include the high total fertility rate (TFR), high teenage pregnancy rate and high unmet need for family planning, since they increase exposure to risk of pregnancy and hence pregnancy related deaths for both women and newborns.
In order to reduce the burden of maternal mortality in Uganda and globally, there is need to address first the burden of teenage pregnancy. Governments and health development and implementing partners must invest more resources in policies and programs that harness initiatives to scale up and increase access to comprehensive sexuality education for both in and out of school youths, Initiatives to reduce early marriages, initiatives that support young people’s easy access reproductive health services and information including modern contraceptive and other family planning services.

Efforts to address sexual violence; rape and defilement and gender issues also should be strengthened. Where pregnancy has occurred it is also vital to increase the use of skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care among teenagers in order to prevent deaths due to pregnancy complications.

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On Wednesday 15th October 2014, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum in partnership with the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Maternal Newborn and Child Health, Marie Stopes Uganda, White Ribbon Alliance Uganda, Reproductive Health Uganda, SRH Alliancy Uganda, School Network Uganda, Uganda Network of Young PEOPLE Living with HIV, Ministry of Health and Tororo District Referral Hospital held a District Youth Dialogue meeting on Safe Motherhood under the Theme: “PROVE YOUR SWAG,” SAY NO TO TEENAGE PREGNANCY AND CHILD MARRIAGES TODAY

The dialogue was organized as a pre-event for the 2014 National Safe Motherhood Day Celebrations.
The dialogue brought together 350 young people from 14 schools between the ages 12-22 years.

The purpose of the dialogue was to meaningfully and effectively engage and involve young people in understanding their role towards improving maternal health and promoting safe motherhood through prevention of teenage pregnancies and child marriages. The dialogue was also aimed at providing an opportunity for majority of these adolescents to meet and interface with policy makers and health service providers so as to openly dialogue and share the challenges they face in regard to their sexuality as well as gender and other sexual health issues.

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The dialogue drew the attention of young people, partners/service providers and policy makers as well as political representatives in renewing their commitment to improving maternal health and promoting safe motherhood mainly through prevention of teenage pregnancies, child marriages and other forms of violence sexual violence.

The Tororo district health team committed to establishing a budget line for adolescent health in the district health budget that will be used to support health promotion outreaches to schools mainly targeting adolescents with comprehensive sexuality education and other SRH services.

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Young people committed to effectively utilizing the available SRH services and improving their health seeking behavior by regularly visiting the hospital.

The District health team committed to engaging health workers and training them on issue of attitude towards young people.

Compiled by

Patrick Mwesigye
CEO
Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum

Programs Officer
Transgender Equality Uganda

Human Rights activist/ Blogger/Social media activist/ Farmer and Public Speaker

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