ARUA. As many under-age girls keep on conceiving especially during the Covid-19 lockdown in West Nile region, Reach a Hand, a nongovernmental organization in collaboration with Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) have intensified the sensitization of community members on the dangers associated with teenage pregnancy and how the vice can be minimized.

This is through the six months Youth Led Covid-19 Response (YLR) project which aims at complementing the effort of the ministry of health in ensuring sexual reproductive health services reach people and get rid of Covid-19 as well. The YLR project is ending this October 2020.

Reach a Hand and RHU are currently circulating information for young people in the community about the risks of Covid-19 and social integration of sexual reproductive services and relevant channels for referrals.

According to Ms Peace Dralega, the programs assistant for Reach a Hand-Uganda, the project has been putting much emphasis on school-age going children who are the most vulnerable when It comes to cases of pregnancy.

She said the peer educators conduct door-to-door community activities to sensitize and counsel the young people on the risks of teenage pregnancy and where they can access family planning services from so that they protect themselves to remain in school.

Ms Dralega said the young people are also enlightened on sex education based on their demand to know about specific issues like menstruation for girls and how both boys and girls can get rid of pregnancy.

She said with the help of peer educators, the young people do not shy-away from accessing family planning services, including pregnancy prevention services.

“Many people think family planning is for married people, which is very wrong yet young people are having sex in the communities. And it is very sad when you go to a facility and a health worker asks a 16-year-old ‘why are you seeking for family planning services’ and this is a young girl who will want to protect herself with the aim of remaining in school,” She said.

Dralega emphasized that having sex is naturally normal for human beings but it becomes a life costing matter when girls conceive at a wrong time.

She said Reach a hand-Uganda normally forwards cases of teenage pregnancies that the organization comes across to police child and family protection unit and probation office so that legal actions are taken against defilement perpetrators.

Ms Rose Inzikuru, a village health team (VHT) leader of Ombacaku village, Yebiavuko parish in Ayivu East Division said community awareness for young people undertaken by nongovernmental organizations complements their work in villages as most young people do not want to open up to them about family planning and sexual reproductive issues.

Inzikuru added that she always makes sure that she informs pregnant teenagers and mothers in her village about antenatal and family planning services which they are to attend for safety during pregnancy.

Ms May Ondoru, a midwife at Riki health center III where RHU and Reach a Hand-Uganda implement family planning services said as midwives, they face challenges with pregnant teenagers, especially during labour because many fear to come for antenatal services thus leading to complications during birth.

She disclosed that Riki health center III receives an average of 10 pregnant teenagers for deliveries out of about 30 monthly deliveries during this Covid-19 pandemic period.

OndoruMs May Ondoru speaking to women who came for antenatal services at Riki health center III. PHOTOS BY JOSEPH ODAMA

“Now the turn-up for antenatal services by both mothers and pregnant teenagers is improving as we keep telling them not to fear coming for the services here” Ms Ondoru said, adding that teenagers who have complications during delivery are normally referred to Arua Regional Referral Hospital in case their conditions require caesarean services.

Ms Kiden Jacklin, a peer educator with Reach a hand-Uganda said home-to-home outreaches they conduct have made many young people to open up about sexual reproductive issues in the refugee setups and host communities which has made many to comply with family planning services.