Amid the rise in teenage pregnancies during the Covid pandemic, youth leaders and experts in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are advocating for increased access to family planning services in the country.
It was during the World Contraception Day (WCD) 2021 seminar Thursday in Kampala, on the theme “Innovations for better access to contraceptives for young people”.
Lillibet Namakula, team leader – Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) noted that the use of modern contraceptives reduces maternal mortality, improves health outcomes for young mothers and their children, and lowers the costs associated with pregnancy in teenage girls.
“In fact, planned pregnancies and births increase the likelihood of reaching higher levels of education, which translates into financial independence,” she said.
“The WCD also reminds us that we must constantly raise awareness of the contraceptive methods available to a woman / girl and her partner to enable them to make a safe and informed decision regarding their reproductive health,” she said.
Ann Alan Sizomu, Program Specialist – Adolescent and Youth SRH at the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV / AIDS (UNYPA) revealed that the current state of the country’s SRH indicators requires immediate and integrated innovative action, especially for adolescents and young people in Uganda. .
The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (UDHS 2016), she said, shows myriad indicators of poor SRHR for young people, including high rates of teenage pregnancy (25%); unsafe abortions and maternal mortality with 28% of maternal deaths occurring in young women (15-24 years), coupled with early first sexual intercourse (16.9 years for women; 18.5 years for older men 25-49 years old); the high unmet need for family planning at 30% among adolescents; gender-based violence; child marriage (34% at 18).
“COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation of teenage pregnancies and adverse maternal health outcomes. Data from the Demographic Health Indicators Survey 2 for the first half of 2021 show that 52% of maternal births were recorded to young people under 25. In addition, 22% of all abortion cases reported during the same period were among adolescents aged 10 to 19. The latest annual National Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report (MPDSR) indicates that 4 out of 10 maternal deaths reported last year were among young people under the age of 25, ”she added.
Sherat Namayanja, Miss Y + Central Region 2020/21 noted that during the lockdown, young people could not access SRHR services because, in the places where they lived, the services were not available. She explained,
“The injection plan and the pills, the main family planning methods that young people choose, were not accessible either because the facilities around them did not have them or because they were refused. such services because of their young age. “
Hindu Gloria Luyinda, peer educator and disability inclusion manager, WEtalk Series Uganda, said access to information, especially during the pandemic, has been limited, especially for people who are deaf and blind.
“Deaf people could not access information from hospitals. Sometimes you will find that an interpreter who would facilitate them through communication is far away, making it difficult to access SRHR services and medicines, ”she said.
Meanwhile, the Honorable Jacob Eyeru, Chairman of the Uganda National Youth Council, noted that at its establishment in December 2020, the leadership of the National Youth Council worked on a strategic investment plan with a major focus on SRHR and HIV / AIDS. He said,
“If we have Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end HIV as a public health threat, by 2030 then we need to focus on the young population.
He added that there is a lot of lack of expertise on people talking about SRHR which needs to be addressed.