Post by: Godfrey Musinguzi - 5 May 2017

A Community Psychologist and Program Manager Building Hope Uganda

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Ever pondered at living conditions of many people in developing nations? No doubt, poverty is at its peak! But one wonders about the massive gift aid Africa alone receives annually whether it has got any impact reached towards this huge problem which leaves many questions unanswered. We cannot however rule out the fact that some feeder roads have been constructed, a few health centres built, averagely clean water provided, improved seeds distributed etc. But all this has not cleared the problem of poverty, in fact as the population increases a lot of pressure is exerted on existing resources and the cycle continues - more aid is sought for.

In Uganda today, child marriages and teenage pregnancies cannot go unmentioned as a contributing factor to increasing population and prevalent poverty in the country. The recent 2014 population census put Uganda’s population at 34,856,813 with Hoima district at 573,903 the 8th highly populated and with the fastest growing population out of the 111 districts of Uganda.

In Hoima, Buseruka sub county alone registered a total population of 43,018 out of 14 sub counties and divisions of Hoima, and with 8,896 total number of households. It is also one of the highly growing populated areas of the district and nation over with a massive influx of people from all corners of the country including the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo. The influx is largely due to the discovery of oil in the region around Lake Albert – the Albertine region (Lake Albert rift valley belt) where Buseruka is located.

Lake Albert is shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo. A lot of activity takes place on this lake, on shores and in the vicinity carrying with it both positive and negative concerns. There are activities like fishing, transporting, trading, prostitution, selling local brew “haragi” as it literally called in the native Runyoro language.

A great number of children and youths have taken advantage of the weak enforcement of existing laws regarding child labour, education especially Universal Primary Education (UPE) which is aimed at reducing the high level of illiteracy.

A lot of children especially adolescent girls have therefore been found prone to the resulting negative social evils like child labour, engaging in early sex, defilement and prostitution leading to early pregnancies, single teenage motherhood, infection contraction -HIV/AIDS and other STIs.

There is increasing concern that if nothing is done to check child marriages and teenage pregnancies, this could further threaten the socio-economic stability of Hoima and Uganda as a whole.

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A young mother who wandered from Northern Uganda to seek employment opportunities on shores of Lake Albert in Buseruka-Hoima, Uganda. In photo: Kneeling with her four children

Further worrying statistics at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital showed a high number of teenage mothers at the facility. The 2014 Antenatal register reveals that out of 11,592 mothers who sought antenatal services at the hospital, 1,626 were teenagers at 14%, while in 2013, out of 11,704 expectant mothers who sought medication at the antenatal unit, 1,841 were teens at 16%. It is likely the percentage could be much higher as many of expectant mothers especially in rural areas do not go to health facilities for antenatal but solely rely on local herbs and traditional birth attendants.

The Daily Monitor, one of Uganda’s leading news -paper also reported on the same incident in its article “Hoima grapples with teenage pregnancy” published 2015.

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In picture: Some teenagers and young mothers in wait for antenatal services at Kabaale Health Center III in Buseruka Sub County, Hoima district.

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