Coronavirus: Lockdown and teenage pregnancy dilemma, Koboko Uganda

Teenage mother being attended to by midwife at Koboko Hospital Atenantal department. Picture by Adiidi Rashul, 21st August 2020

By Adiidi Rasul, Spirit fm

Schools have been one of the promising guarantee against teenage pregnancies since underage girls are kept busy with their books in a bid to attain better results at the end of each year. But the story has so far changed after the shutdown of schools amongst other social gatherings across the country. This has set the teenagers free and to their various homes.

The outcome of the lockdown aimed at curbing the hearty spread of the pandemic gave girls the freedom and liberty to friends and loved ones resulting to the shoot up of teenage pregnancies.

In Koboko district, a total of 835 teenage pregnancies and 47 defilement cases have been registered during the period of the lockdown.

According to the district statistics from Koboko hospital, the age bracket of the pregnancy that sought antenatal service from the hospital ranges between 13-19 (making 23%) while more than 158 teenage girls in the municipality also sought Antenatal services at Koboko hospital (making 20%). The statistics that has been traced from the month of March to July indicates that within the lockdown period, majority of the mothers who come for Antenatal services at the different health facilities in the district are below 20 years (13-19years)  making the number of teenage pregnancies above the national target (less than 15%).

The district has also been registering increase in the number of defilement among other cases within the lockdown period.

The Central Police Station in the district has reported about 47 cases from the month of March to Mid-August, the report states that in March the district registered 8 cases, in April 11, May 6, June 4, July 11 and Mid-august 7 cases registered.

Due to its fluctuation, Mr Opit Samuel the district crime intelligence officer believes within the lockdown period the district might continue to register increase in the number of cases.

“The number has kept fluctuating and it’s not constant” says Opit,sometimes you find that in other months the number of cases rise while other months the number drops down a bit but generally there is increase in defilement cases within the lockdown” he laments.

As the deadline to the lockdown still remains covered from the eyes of the citizens, young people continue to reap from their liberty to visiting opposite sexes with the excuses of meeting their school friends, something putting them into the risk of continuous pregnancy.

The detective however attributed the increase to reluctance, failure to control and poor parenting by many parents, loss of public moral, cultural values and poor dressing codes which he believes sometimes seduces the men luring them into raping and defiling the young girls

“Generally many parents have reluctance in controlling their children, more especially these young children move the whole night, dress poorly and they end up being rapes and defiled by these men” He says. “even this time you find that parents and these children have lost the public moral and cultural values and even these girls dress poorly, move around the town, and now this end up seducing men hence forcing them into sexual intercourse” the detective reveals

The detective however called for support to the children by guiding them and warned parents from negotiating defilement as civil cases.

However the mounting numbers of teenage pregnancies within the lockdown period has vexed the leaders in the district. They believe the timely increase in the numbers of teenage pregnancies will hit back when schools open due to high dropout rate. Uganda’s policy doesn’t provide for pregnant mothers to access education during their pregnancy cycle.

Mr. Wayi dragamulayi the acting district education officer for Koboko has this to say.

“This statistic is going to affect our enrollment when schools resume, many of these girls are going dropout”

Though poor parenting has been blamed for the rise in teenage pregnancy, some rights group attributes the rise to poor sexual reproductive health informations.  Ceyo Lydia a project officer for partners in community transformation (PICOT) adds, plight is made to the government and ministry of health to pass the national school health policy.

“Many of these young boys and girls don’t have access to sexual reproductive health services, most of them are ignorant of the body changes, how to control (protect) and also get information, therefore the government needs to finalize in scrutinizing and passing the national school health policy”.-SaysLydia.

Goro grace the chairperson of Koboko women caucus however called upon parents to protect their children and guide them within the period of the lockdown.

“The say used to be these girls conceive  in Discos but now that discos are not there, whom do we blame, therefore I’m calling upon the parents to help in guiding and talking to these children, at school these children used to be guided and on tight security, now that they are at home, take your responsibility”. Grace laments.