Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations with almost half of the entire population (48.7%) under the age of 15 years and 70% are less than 25 years of age. The country also has one of the world’s highest total fertility rates at 5.4.
The flag bearers of reproduction in the bigger perspective of it are women; these play a pivotal role in personal health, the health of the children, and their families. Sub-Sahara African women are heavily burdened with taking care of their families yet most men carry the ceremonial title as the “Family Heads.”
The RISE (Reducing high fertility rates and Improving Sexual reproductive health outcomes in Uganda) Youth champions project aims at ending teenage pregnancies and ensuring timely access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services among young people in Uganda.
As Rise Youth Champions, in a project under African Youth and Adolescents Health Networks Uganda channeled towards young people’s social behavioral change through access to information, we are reaching out to women and men in communities. We are also including persons with unique abilities while utilizing various informative communiqués like peer to peer, community dialogues and radio talk shows in local languages to deliver SRHR information.
It’s key to acknowledge that today, access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Information is restricted to women, yet it is supposed to cut across to both sexes and all sexually active individuals. This is as a result of various reasons ranging from myths, affordability, accessibility, knowledge, and availability of SRHR information.
The CoronaVirus (COVID-19) pandemic has combed through the world and has negatively affected the modus operandi. When the world economies are hit hard, most sectors in the Developing World suffer exponentially. Sub Saharan Africa depends exclusively on foreign aid from Developed countries; the health sectors are supported by International health organizations to disseminate knowledge and information regarding various human health challenges.
For the above to be possible, there has to be relative stability for people to be able to move freely without restrictions in order to equip themselves with first-hand know-how when it comes to the most pressing of their everyday needs but most importantly their reproductive health.
Failure to meet certain health and reproductive standards is a recipe for disaster. With the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic, access to health Centers by the sexually active youths especially in Uganda is very hard, especially with the current travel restrictions.
This, therefore, creates a huge challenge-driven crisis for the youth who normally have to go to sanctioned areas to be educated about SRHR issues. Family planning services from the pharmaceuticals and clinics are exclusive to the few that can move but excluded from those distant areas and have not private means on transportation.
The lockdown has created an unprecedented surge in unplanned pregnancies. In other scenarios, women of childbearing age are left with no choice but to take contraceptives without their partners’ knowledge during the lockdown period to avoid the unplanned for pregnancies.
Very important to note, where there are crises, opportunities prevail too, it is, therefore, a better-timed period to assess, monitor, evaluate and collect data in various health-related fields in order to better understand what preventative measures and solutions should be devised to combat early teenage marriages, creating awareness through dissemination of important information about reproductive health and rights, which platforms to use, when and how.
The Rise Youth Champions have resorted to using online media platforms to disseminate SRHR information to young people and our peers during this COVID-19 pandemic as a way to help mitigate the levels of unintended and unplanned-for pregnancies that many are now referring to as a post-COVID-19 baby boom.
By Winnie Akidi Adile
The Writer is an AfriYAN RISE Youth Champion and TeamLeader WEtalk Series Uganda