The health ministry has launched a campaign dubbed “Let girls be girls” aimed at reducing maternal deaths by 15 percent by July 2015. The Let Girls be Girls campaign shall cost 2.2 billion shillings for a full year. Currently, 24 percent of maternal deaths in Uganda are a result of teenage pregnancies, which are a threat to national development.
Teenage pregnancies implies that the individual is carrying a baby while she is still a baby herself or under 18 and is prone to experiencing many risks that endanger her health and that of her unborn baby. Sarah Opendi, the State Minister for Primary Health notes that the primary cause of teenage pregnancy is unprotected sexual intercourse.
The unwanted and unplanned pregnancies result into complications such as difficult delivery, high blood pressure, fistula and low weight babies amongst other others.
//Cue in: “Annually we lose…
Cue out:….in this country.”//
Opendi is convinced that defilement is still the major cause of teenage pregnancies. She emphasizes the need for collective efforts from the communities and the police to ensure no defilement case is settled out of court.
//Cue in: Our target in…
Cue out:…is really defilement.”//
The government committed itself to achieving an overall reduction in maternal mortality by 75 percent from 537 to 131 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2015. According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey results 2011, there have been some improvements in maternal and child health indicators.
Despite these registered improvements, the maternal mortality ratio remains unacceptably high at 438 per 100,000 live births. This means that Uganda loses about 6000 women due to pregnancy and pregnancy related death causes annually.
This is worsened by the fact that only 11 percent of adolescents have access to reproductive health and Family planning services. The same survey indicates that 24 percent of adolescent girls become pregnant before the age of 18. This makes Uganda one of the countries with the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies in Sub Saharan Africa.
In order to achieve the objective of the “Let girls be girls” campaign, the health ministry has set out activities such as media campaigns in schools, outreach programmes to young people to provide appropriate information on teenage pregnancy and reproductive health youth groups. Others include family planning and fistula camps in health facilities and schools, youth friendly services through counseling health education, medical checkups and treatment where necessary.
While the activities continue, the Health Ministry emphasizes that all girls should be encouraged to stay in school long enough to acquire education and skills. All teenagers must abstain from sex until they are old enough. Importantly schools should provide sexuality education to students from upper primary in order to help them manage different peer pressures that influence them to engage in early sex practices.
The Ministry also advocates for young mothers to be encouraged to go back and complete school and all pregnant teenagers should deliver under skilled care in a health facility.