NEBBI. Plan international has launched a 5-year project worth Shs12 billion aimed at ending child marriage and reducing teenage pregnancy.

This will be implemented in the 4 districts of Nebbi, Zombo, Pakwach and Adjumani.

Mr Denis Oketa, the acting coordinator plan international said the project is targeting 10,000 youths in the four districts and the objective is to ensure that the school environment is safe for girls.

He said they also want to increase retention and completion of girls between the age group of 10-18 years and reduce incidences of violence against children in schools.

Speaking during an inception meeting in Nebbi on Wednesday, Mr Gilbert Onencan, the Senior assistant secretary Nebbi District Local government said child marriage and teenage pregnancy has become a challenge that if nothing is done, the current and coming generation will all be lost in the process.

“We need a concerted effort by all stakeholders to cause change for the future generation because if we do not act now, we shall leave a bigger problem which the current generation will not be able to solve if we fail now”, he lamented.

He said before, school dropout was the cause of teenage pregnancy but now teenage pregnancy is the cause of high school drop out in the district with Erussi, Akworo, Parombo and the emerging town councils of Nyaravur-Angal leading in the district.

The district probation officer Yerusa Afoyorwoth said during her visit to schools recently, she realized that in most of the schools, the number of girls has drastically reduced. She was told that they were either married off or are at home pregnant.

“This clearly accounts for the high drop out of female pupils and students in our schools”, she said.

Mr Emmanuel Urombi, the Nebbi district chairman said they have been doing a lot in sensitization of the communities about the increasing numbers of teenage pregnancy in the community and what is now needed is for civil society organizations, local governments, cultural and traditional leaders to come together and fight against the vice.

“To reduce teenage pregnancy and its harmful health consequences, the government and other stakeholders must address the underlying social, cultural and economic factors that contribute to pregnancy and childbearing among adolescents”, he added.

There has been a sharp rise in teenage pregnancy from 19.1% in 2016 to 26% by the end of 2019 and it has been made worse with the period of Covid-19 pandemic when the children have been out of school.