The State Minister for youth affairs, Sarah Mateke has urged Ugandans to augment government and stakeholders' efforts aimed at ending teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the country.
Speaking during the dissemination of the second national strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy at the Admas Hotel in Entebbe, the minister said child marriages and teenage pregnancies is a violation of the rights for children that ought to be fought.
"Because child marriage and teenage pregnancy is a human rights violation, it's a child-rights violation, it deprives girls, families and communities of their lives and futures, it undermines our efforts towards gender equality, it deprives our country of productive human resource and it increases the national burden of care for vulnerable children," Mateke said.
Quoting 2021 statistics from the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA), the minister said the Covid pandemic exacerbated the early child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the country with 354,736 teenage pregnancies registered in 2020 and 290,219 in 2021 making an average of 32,000 teenage pregnancies per month.
"Uganda now ranks 16th out of the 25 countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world. This is nothing to be proud of at all. From the cost of inaction study carried out by National Planning Authority in 2022, we also got to learn that Government will continue to lose shs645 billion annually on healthcare for teenage mothers and their children if no action is taken. This figure doesn't include how much your families spend on these teenage mothers and their children. Friends, imagine how much this money can do during these economically tough times," Mateke said.
She said statistics prove that many girls have been defiled by parents, teachers and caretakers, adding that it is high time Ugandans took part in fighting this state of affairs.
"We want to create a better community where our children can grow up better but it has to start at the family level where if the family is doing well, then everything well be better."
According to the minister, fighting teenage pregnancies and child marriages should not only be a duty for government but everyone in society.
The Ministry of Gender Permanent Secretary, Aggrey Kibenge noted that proper child upbringing is key in ensuring an end to child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
"As a parent, there is no way I can trust anybody else to protect my girl child from early marriages, teenage pregnancies. The responsibility lies with,"Kibenge said.