NATIONAL. A study conducted by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda chapter in 2020 has shown that the cases of teenage pregnancy and early marriages have shot up in Uganda during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

The research undertaken in 25 randomly selected districts across the country indicates that the number of girls aged 10-24 seeking for the first Antenatal Care in health facilities increased from 80,655 to 98,810 during the pandemic period.

It also shows that Kampala metropolitan area comprising Kampala City, Wakiso and Mukono districts recorded the highest number of cases of teenage pregnancy and early marriages with 24,059, 21,595 and 8,639 cases respectively. This was followed by Kamuli, Kasese, Jinja and Mayuge districts.

While disseminating the research findings to the different stakeholders in the West Nile region at Muni University on Tuesday, Mr Ben Kirere, the FAWE Monitoring and Evaluation Officer said the situation is worse among children between the age bracket of 10 – 14 years.

“After engaging directly with the 6,000 respondents, we went to the Ministry of Health management system to check those who have attended their first antenatal care from the various hospitals and when we computed that, we realized that between March and June 2020, there was an increment of 22 per cent as reflected in the figure,” Mr Kirere noted.

It is discovered the majority of the cases are from the homes of the abused teenagers.

“Issues that came out during the study are really painful and our girls are so disadvantaged. But the most painful thing is that most of the girls have been abused within the confines of their homes. Girls have been abused by parents, friends, by cultural and religious leaders. These are the people that these girls should be looking to,” Ms Suzan Opok Tumusiime, the executive director of FAWE stressed.

“Although the cases of early marriage were discovered to be as low as 2.8 per cent during the study period, many of the impregnated girls have ended up being forced into early marriages due to pressure by relatives and parents,” Opok said.

However, chances for many of the abused girl-child to go back to school may be minimal due to fears of being laughed at by the peers and pressure from parents to indulge in income generating activities to cater for the babies, a condition that forces many school age children to remain in marriage.

According to the report, poverty, parental negligence and the mindset of considering the girl-child as a source of wealth in many communities are some of the factors increasing cases of teenage pregnancy and early marriages.

Mr Sam Wadri Nyakua, the Arua city Mayor noted that many girls end up being impregnated mostly because they choose to go out to men to look for essential things which come with a cost.

Meanwhile Prof. Christine Dranzoa, the Vice Chancellor of Muni University described the need to address teenage pregnancy and early marriage among the girl and boy child as an emergency to correct.

She stressed that paying less attention to the vice will promote generational poverty in communities when the current children are not educated.

Arua district woman MP, Lillian Paparu who represented Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the Minister for Primary Education observed that a motion about protection of the girl has been moved on the floor of Parliament which many legislators have upheld.

“Recently Hon Sarah Opendi moved a similar motion on the floor of Parliament urging the government to plan and regulate issues affecting the girl child and that has given us a backup as women because the problem has been talked about severally and it has been put to the rightful committee,” Ms Paparu said.