- On 13 December 2019, ADA and UNFPA signed a partnership agreement for a two-year programme interventions starting December 2019 – November 2021.
- The programme [agreement] aims to empower rights holders to advance an integrated package of rights through the transformation of social norms to prevent gender-based violence (GBV).
- Approximately it will cost UGX 7 billion.
- Programme is to strengthen on-going interventions, responding to high levels of teenage pregnancies, high mortality rate, low use of contraceptives, etc.
Lira – In April 2018 while launching the project aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in northern Uganda in Pader district, local and central governments officials and development partners promised to end child marriage in the beneficiary districts in Lango and Acholi sub-regions.
However, more than three years since such pledges were made, health workers and local leaders in the above sub-regions have expressed concern about the increasing number of child mothers despite various interventions by government and development partners.
The leaders attribute the mounting number of child mothers to family collapse [Gender Based Violence] and the loss of moral values caused by the uprising waged by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels under its leader, Joseph Kony.
That program launched in 2018 to end child marriage and teenage pregnancies is a four year program worth Uganda shillings 17 billion and being financed by Finland government.
It was to target [benefit] about 470,000 beneficiaries who included boys and girls aged between 10 and 19 in Lira, Apac, Alebtong, Kole districts in Lango sub-region and Agagao and Pader districts in Acholi sub-region.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development [MGLSD] was mandated to work closely with five development partners to implement the project and generate visible results.
The main objective of the project was to “strengthen social reproductive health and information awareness among both boys and girls” in the region.
Eeva Ervamaa who’s the head of program said at that time: “For the girls, this means that we need to do all we can to support their education and empower them so that they can live liberated lives so they can contribute fully to the development of the societies.”
Also, Mr. Mondo Kyateka, commissioner for Youth and Children Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development then said, “most important thing is not what we did or didn’t do yesterday, what is important is what we draw from lessons of yesterday and plan to do better tomorrow”.
With such statements and commitment from both stakeholders, and with the project almost coming to the end, teenage marriages and pregnancies still remain a reality for thousands of children in the region.
Available statistics show that Lira district alone recorded a shocking increase in teenage pregnancies in the previous financial year.
In financial year that ended, 2018/2019, the district recorded 9,916 teenage pregnancies up from 5,178 in financial year 2017/2018.
In Lira Municipality’s Adyel Division, alone, 5,363 teenage pregnancies were recorded, according to statistics from Health System Monitoring Information [HSMI] and Ojwina division also registered 472 teenage pregnancies.
Lira district sub-counties.
HSMI statistics also show that at least 594 teenage pregnancies were registered in Lira sub-county, while 516 and 472 were recorded in Adekokwok sub-county.
“For the last 30 years, there has been very little or no change in median age at first marriage, which has been fairly stable at an average of 17.9 years,” Dr. Edmond Acheka, the assistant DHO Lira said.
“The main causes of teenage pregnancies are domestic violence, primitive cultural practices, alcoholism and poor parenting,” he added.
Another health expert in the region, Dr. Richard Nam who’s a gynaecologist says “early pregnancy exposes the mother and the baby to both health and social dangers”.
“At premature age, the bones in the waist, which are to deliver the baby, will not have matured. So, if one is to get pregnant when the bones are not yet mature, she will be forced to push the baby through the bones,” Dr. Nam added.
He continues: “The womb is likely to break and the baby may also die. It can also rupture the urinary bladder and damage the rectum causing fistula,” he added.
‘Northern Uganda story’
Due to the long account of poverty and lack of better education, many adolescent girls in poor and rural communities expose themselves to many risks, including drug and alcohol use, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual and gender based violence, school dropouts, teenage pregnancy, and child marriage.
In the United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] Adolescent and Youth Dashboard – Uganda, it indicates that the percentage of women, aged 20-24, who gave birth before age 18 is high at 33.0 percent with only 21.5 percent of secondary education completion rate (2017).
Also, the adolescent pregnancy rate is higher among those women who live in rural areas (36.2 percent) compared to ones from urban areas (23.7 percent). The report further reveals that adolescent girls are more vulnerable compared to their male counterparts.
On 13, December 2019, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) signed a partnership agreement for a two-year intervention starting December 2019 – November 2021.
The programme [agreement] aims to empower rights holders to advance an integrated package of rights through the transformation of social norms to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful practices that hinder access to sexual reproductive health in Karamoja region and Northern Uganda.
Approximately to cost UGX 7 billion, the programme is to strengthen on-going interventions, specifically responding to high levels of teenage pregnancies, high mortality rate, low use of contraceptives and weak response to gender-based violence.
“Interventions including support to the judiciary to implement mobile court sessions for GBV survivors; engagement of communities, religious, cultural, political leaders using multi-sectoral channels; as well as strengthened capacity of duty bearers to provide services, will increase coverage and access to sexual and reproductive health services,” said Mr. Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative, commending ADA for this generosity.
The programme will target hard-to-reach three districts in northern Uganda like Omoro, Kitgum and Otuke. However, focus will be much in Karamoja region and the following districts are beneficiaries; Abim, Amudat, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Kaabong and Napak.
“These districts show a sustained high fertility rate with low contraceptive use and high rates of teenage pregnancies.”