The fate of Uganda’s teenage population is in our hands. The statistics in the Uganda demographic and health survey (UDHS) 2016 released recently by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics last Tuesday, reported an increase in teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 to 25 per cent from 24 per cent in the last five years.

While the increase may look like a small margin, the fact that the numbers are growing cannot be ignored.

Matters of teenage fertility have far-reaching consequences to the greater population. As stated in the report, teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and are more constrained in their abilities to pursue educational opportunities than women who delay child bearing. Added to this, such children face an increased risk of sickness and death.

The highest numbers are reported in rural populations with numbers standing at 27 per cent and 19 per cent in urban areas. This is not surprising given that level of education has been found to contribute to the age at which girls begin child bearing. In fact, the report highlights that 35 per cent of these teenagers without education bore children compared to 11 per cent who have more than secondary education.

It is, therefore, very critical that education programmes like Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education are given priority.

Literacy will also create awareness on sexual issues and reduce on the defilement rates. According to the crime report 2016 released by the Uganda Police Force early this month, 17,567 cases defilement were recorded, from 14,973 in 2010. Persecution and awareness needs to be stepped up.

Empowerment of rural communities will also go a long way in dealing with the issue of teenage pregnancy. It has been reported in the media before that poverty stricken parents especially in remote areas resort to marrying off their young daughters for bride price.

The UDHS report reveals that teenagers in lowest wealth quintile tend to begin childbearing earlier (34 per cent) than those in the highest quintile (15 per cent). This is where poverty alleviation programmes can be fundamental in dealing with this issue.

Local governments should spearhead this much needed move to curb teenage pregnancies. That said, as advised by different stakeholders in the health industry, government investment in the health sector beyond 8.7 per cent of the national budget is critical.

Already with more investment in fertility, a significant reduction in the number of deaths of mothers and children due to pregnancy-related complications was recorded. Surely, we don’t need more evidence to push us further.

The issue: Teenage pregnancy .
Our view: Empowerment of rural communities will also go a long way in dealing with the issue of teenage pregnancy.