As Uganda commemorates the World Population Day today, Members of Parliament on the Uganda Parliamentarians’ Forum on Food Security, Population and Development have come out and condemned teenage pregnancies and need for a population census.
They appealed to government to increase people’s awareness on various population issues citing the importance of family planning, including gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
The MPs noted that this implies a great need for government to sensitize the people about the importance of sex education so that children do not fall victims of sexual predators and teenage pregnancy.
The World Population Day is observed every 11th of July to raise awareness of global population issues and to reaffirm the human right to plan a family.
In Uganda National Celebrations for this year will be held in Ngora district under the theme “Let us Invest in Reducing Teenage Pregnancies, Let Girls be Girls”.
MP Betty Awol Ochan, a member of the Food security Forum, said that government should emphasize children’s rights to education, health and marriage at the right age. She said this calls for promotion of sex related education and that both the youth in schools and out of school should be targeted.
Awol noted that there is a need for understanding that the dignity and human rights of adolescent girls must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
She added that teenage mothers in Uganda face a higher risk of experiencing serious complications during pregnancy and child birth because their bodies are not yet fully matured.
She also demanded that government conducts a National census in order to plan for the population efficiently and effectively.
MP Huda Oleru Abason said that it is government’s cardinal responsibility to give services to the population and that the key being Education to keep young girls at schools.
She encouraged government to invest more in girl child education and in case of dropouts she suggested more emphasis on technical institutes to enable training for school dropouts.
Oleru also noted that there should be specific budget allocations on the girl child education in order to cut down on the unwanted pregnancies that girls get because of not attending schools.
She argued Parents in rural areas to give more attention to the girl child by not loading them with work to expose them to rapists citing fetching water at long distances and fetching firewood.
MP Milton Muwuma, the Secretary General of the Forum, said that there is need for government to provide family planning methods citing contraceptives for free in order for mothers to avoid unwanted pregnancies and also having many children they cannot provide for.
He also urged men to support their wives in cases of use of family planning methods to control pregnancies and child births.
About 16 million girls worldwide aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of deaths among girls in this age group especially in developing countries.
23% of the pregnancies in Uganda are of girls under 18 years. The issue of teenage pregnancy is compounded by adolescent girls’ vulnerability to early or forced marriage, with Uganda having one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world.