Deborah Malac asks government to address teenage pregnancies

The United States Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac has asked the government to do more to reduce on the high number of teenage pregnancies.

Ambassador Malac also said that avoiding teenage pregnancies should not be the role of the parents but also the government.

"There is need by the government to address teenage pregnancy. It is not only the parents, but the government should also work together to protect the young girls," Malac said.

Malac was speaking on Thursday in Kabarole district at the opening ceremony of the newly refurbished maternity unit at Bukuku Health Centre IV. The facility that cost 1.2 Billion Shillings was renovated with funding from the Centre for Disease Control-CDC under the Saving Mothers Giving Life - SMGL programme.

Richard Rwabuhinga, the Kabarole district LCV Chairperson had earlier told Ambassador Malac that the US government should support the district to reduce teenage pregnancy which he says stands at 32 percent and is one of the causes of school drop-outs.

Malac however tasked the district to work with parents, religious and cultural leaders in mobilising the community on the dangers of teenage pregnancies and preach abstinence from sex until the girls are old enough.

"Unwanted and unplanned pregnancies result into complications. The leaders, medical workers should emphasise that all girls should be encouraged to stay in school long enough to acquire education and skills," Malac said.

Malac also asked men to test so that they are able to know their status. She added that the US will continue offering support to Uganda under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -PEPFAR.

Dr. Adeodata Kekitiinwa, the Executive Director Baylor Uganda said that 24 percent of maternal deaths in Uganda are a result of teenage pregnancies.

Records at the newly refurbished maternity unit indicate that the number of deliveries have increased from 12 in 2012 to 56 in 2016. The facility is equipped with 30 delivery beds and 10 incubators. It is also connected to the national power grid.

The Uganda Demographic Health survey 2015 indicates that about 14 per cent of young women and 16 per cent of young men had their first sexual encounter before the age of 15 while 57 per cent of young women had their first encounter before the age of 18.

According to the Population secretariat, of the 1.2 million pregnancies recorded in Uganda annually, 25 percent are teenage pregnancies. The secretariat also notes that the more than 300,000 teenagers who get pregnant annually also account for the bulk of unwanted pregnancies, which end up in unintended births or abortion.