Teenage pregnancies contribute to 18% of maternal deaths, health experts warn

Ministry of Health officials have sounded the alarm on the rising prevalence of teenage pregnancies, which now account for a troubling 18% of maternal deaths in Uganda.

In a bid to combat this concerning trend, officials from the Ministry of Health engaged with the media to shed light on the status of teenage pregnancy and adolescent health in the country.

Dr. Henry Mwebesa, Director-General of Health Sciences at Uganda's Ministry of Health, emphasised the critical importance of adolescence in human development.

He stressed the urgent need for collaborative efforts to address the myriad challenges faced by this demographic.

"Therefore, there is a need to provide accurate, age-appropriate information to our young people so that they can make informed decisions and choices about their lives," said Dr. Mwebesa.

Highlighting the significant biological and psychological changes occurring during adolescence, Dr. Mwebesa underscored the importance of this phase in laying the groundwork for good health in adulthood.

Globally, adolescents represent approximately 20% of the population, with Uganda's youthful population underlining the urgency of addressing various health issues.

These include sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mental health, and substance abuse.

Dr. Mwebesa expressed concern over the stagnant teenage pregnancy rates, citing recent data from the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) indicating a rate of 24%.

This figure has dire implications, including maternal deaths, fistula, abortions, and sepsis, which further strain the healthcare system.

To confront these challenges head-on, Dr. Mwebesa outlined the Ministry's prioritization of adolescent health, with strategic interventions integrated into national policies.

This includes ongoing efforts to build the capacity of health workers and school-based service providers, emphasizing a comprehensive package of adolescent and school health services.

Moreover, initiatives such as the constitution of the National Working Group on Adolescent Health and the development of a comprehensive set of indicators aim to track progress in adolescent health beyond sexual and reproductive issues.

Dr. Mwebesa stressed the importance of collaborative partnerships involving stakeholders from diverse sectors, including the media.

He urged the media to not only report but also provide accurate and age-appropriate information to empower adolescents in making informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Dr. Richard Mugahi, assistant commissioner in charge of reproductive and infant health at the ministry, highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting that many maternal deaths occur among mothers aged 19 years and below, often as a result of unsafe abortion attempts using traditional methods.

"18% of the women dying in Uganda due to pregnancy-related complications are teenagers," Dr. Mugahi emphasized, underscoring the urgent need for concerted action to address this pressing public health issue.

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