Kitgum authorities are concerned about the rising number of pregnancies among underage girls. The media has been awash with news of teenage pregnancy across the country in the last two years fueled by the lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When schools reopened, many thought the girls would concentrate on their studies, which would automatically lead to a reduction in teenage pregnancies. However, in Kitgum district, authorities are recording more teenage pregnancies compared to the lockdown period.
Michael Ogweng, the Kitgum District Senior Probation and Social Welfare Officer says that statistics from the Health Information Management System indicate that 1,215 girls got pregnant between January to June 2022.
Namokora sub-county, which has already registered 157 teenage pregnancies from January to June this year, had 173 cases in the whole of 2021 and 141 cases in 2020. This implies that if more girls get defiled, the figure will surpass those registered in each of the last two years.
Ogweng said the statistic is worrying, given the provisions for affordable education given by the government. He appealed to development partners and other education stakeholders to add more efforts to ensure that girls enroll and stay in school till they complete their studies.
Ogweng attributed the high teenage pregnancy to parental neglect, where parents ignore pressing needs of the girl-child such as sanitary facilities, which forces them to seek them from other people who end up taking advantage of them.
He adds that most families are not happy as parents are always embroiled in domestic fights, which leaves the children in a dilemma of who to consult for material and psychosocial support.
Ogweng said there is a need to pass an ordinance on teenage pregnancy and child marriage to help reduce the vice. He said the previous council started the process but did not make a lot of progress due to a lack of funds.
In 2019, at least 2,223 teenage girls were impregnated in Kitgum, and in 2020 and 2021, the figure stood at 1,778 and 1780 respectively. This brings the total number of girls who have got pregnant in the last three and half years to 6,805.
Alex Ajiji, the Gulu High Court Resident Judge has appealed to parents especially mothers to put more effort into taking care of their children so that they don’t go astray. Ajiji says the girls are the future of the country and leaving them unguided means there will be no future for the country.
Christopher Obol Arwai, the chairperson of Kitgum argues that domestic violence is the reason for the many teenage pregnancies. Arwai said if Gender-Based Violence is addressed, it will reduce some of its effects on women and girls.