The alarming prevalence of teenage pregnancy in Uganda has far-reaching consequences on the nation’s development. This pressing issue has garnered increasing attention in recent years, as the nation grapples with the socio-economic ramifications of a rising number of adolescent mothers.
Uganda’s increasing rate of teenage pregnancy and other negative Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are situated in a predominantly young population with more than half of the population aged below 18 years.
This young population presents a great opportunity for development if appropriate investments are made particularly in education, health and protection of young people.
Conversely, if the appropriate investments are not made, young people are left in vulnerable situations affecting their health, well-being, curtailing fulfillment of their potential to contribute to overall development
The District Health Information system-2 (DHIS-2) reveals that as of 2021, the country recorded 31,565 pregnancies every month which translates into 1,052 pregnancies recorded daily up from 29,835 cases recorded in 2019 and 29,557 in 2020 and a daily rate of 994 and 985 respectively
The increasing rate of teenage pregnancy is compounded by other SRHR indicators where Uganda is scoring poorly as indicated by the Uganda Demographic Health Survey, 2016 which shows a high maternal mortality with 28% of maternal deaths occurring among young women (15-24 years), early sexual debut (16.9 years for female; 18.5 years for male age 25-49); high unmet need for family planning at 30% among adolescents; gender-based violence; child marriage (34 percent by 18 years).
A Cost of inaction on teenage pregnancy study titled, “The cost of inaction: The Economic and Social Burden of Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda,” conducted by National Population Council, National Planning Authority and UNFPA shows that, 50% of teenage girls are at risk of getting pregnant each year, about 64% of teenage mothers will not complete primary education level; about 60 percent of teenage mothers will end up in peasant agriculture work and annually more than UGX. 645 billion (181.8 million USD) will be spent by government on healthcare for teen mothers and education of their children.
Uganda’s main strategy for harnessing the Demographic Dividend is built around ensuring that the adolescents are healthy, properly educated and appropriately skilled to take up jobs that will be created in the economy as per the third National Development Plan (NDP III) programme lay out.
However, the study shows that teenage mothers are three times less likely to have professional jobs and twice more likely to be self-employed in agriculture.
“About half of the teenage mothers (47%) are peasants in subsistence agriculture. Only 5% of the teenage mothers are employed in professional occupations. Subsequently teenage mothers will have a lower income level that eventually affects their standard of living and contribution to productivity,” the study reveals.
On matters economic cost of teenage pregnancy, the study shows that per capita reproductive health expenditure i.e what each teenage mother spends is 280 USD on herself and baby’s health
care while the per capita expenditure for minor health care of a child per episode is estimated at USD 8 (29,645 shillings).