Experts express concerns over maternal mortality rates in Uganda

Experts express concerns over maternal mortality rates in Uganda
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As Uganda celebrates Women's Day, experts have raised concerns about the alarmingly high maternal mortality rates in the country.

They have highlighted those infants born to teenage mothers account for 35 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 25 deaths per 1,000 born to mothers aged 20-29 years.

These concerns were voiced during the End Teenage Pregnancy HackLab dialogue held in Kampala.

The UNFPA launched the Youth Innovation Exchange Hub, an interactive platform that allows young people to address gender-related issues such as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), while also developing solutions for social change.

During the dialogue, four youth innovators showcased their solutions, emphasising their relevance in ending teenage pregnancy in Uganda. The participating teams were Ndaba Innovation Hub, Bulamu Bridge AI, Her Worth Foundation, and Diversity Innovations Initiative.

Daniel Alemu, the Deputy Country Representative of UNFPA Uganda, explained that the HackLab was initiated in 2023 as part of the UN Joint Programme on Gender-based Violence (GBV) to address the challenge of teenage pregnancy.

According to the 2022 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS 2022), the teenage pregnancy rate is 24% which places Uganda among the countries with high teenage pregnancy

"This already alarming figure surged significantly during the pandemic, with an average of 1,052 girls becoming pregnant each day," he emphasized.

Alemu emphasised that teenage pregnancy can be considered an act of violence due to the significant costs and medical risks associated with teenage childbirth for both the mother and child.

"Furthermore, adolescent girls experience some of the highest maternal mortality rates in Uganda due to their bodies being insufficiently developed to sustain a pregnancy to full term. Consequently, 28% of maternal deaths are recorded among young girls aged 15 to 25," he pointed out.

Alemu also emphasized the impact of teenage pregnancy on education, stating that teenage mothers are more likely to have only primary-level education and are six times less likely to complete secondary education.

He stressed the importance of keeping girls in school as a means to reduce teenage pregnancies. He further revealed that teenage pregnancy accounts for nearly one-fifth (18%) of annual births in Uganda, with almost half (46%) of these pregnancies being unwanted.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Uganda, with funding from Sweden, has also announced an Early and Unintended Pregnancy HackLab to seek innovative solutions and accelerate collective efforts to end early and unintended pregnancies in various districts across Uganda.

The goal of this HackLab is to create a world where communities, including women and girls, are supported and empowered to lead campaigns against early and unintended pregnancies.

Tomas Lundström, a Health Counselor at the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda, urged all stakeholders to advocate for young girls, emphasizing that they are currently suffering and facing significant challenges.

He highlighted the importance of comprehensive sexual education and addressing the real underlying issues to effectively combat teenage pregnancy and prevent the tragic consequences faced by young girls.

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