According to United Nations estimates, teenagers aged 10 to 19 years account for up to 16% of the world’s population, or 1.2 billion people. “An estimated 1.2 million teenagers die every year, largely from preventable causes,” according to a UNICEF report on adolescent health and well-being. So, according to the World Health Organization reports, many people die prematurely as a result of a variety of circumstances including homicide, suicide, violence, motor vehicle accidents, pregnancy and childbirth complications, and so on.
Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations, according to UNFPA statistics, with yearly population increase estimated at 3.0 percent (among the highest in the world). Adolescents account for a quarter of the country’s population, with many having limited access to excellent education, health, and social services.
By the age of 19, 25% of Ugandan teenagers become pregnant, according to the Ministry of Health. Around 49% marry before they turn 18 and start having children until they are in their mid-forties. Other sexual and reproductive health issues that adolescents experience are numerous. Emergency Obstetric Care is frequently required for complicated childbirths and abortions. HIV infection is one of the most frequent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). A typical Ugandan rural community consists of large families with unevenly spaced children.
Adolescents make up Uganda’s largest demographic group, but sexual and reproductive health information and services to fulfill their needs are still scarce, according to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health (when she was still serving as Director General of Health Services). Since 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) Uganda Country Office has worked with the Ministry of Health (MoH) to develop the service delivery system in order to realize the country’s fast-rising young population’s sexual and reproductive health rights in order to limit challenges faced by young people in acquiring SRHR Services.
In Uganda, adolescent sexual and reproductive health information and services, which improve the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs), and all forms of sexual violence and coercion, are still lacking, and this has been exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown. This leaves Ugandan teenagers with few options when it comes to effective sexual behaviour promotion, access to family planning services and information, general knowledge on sexual and reproductive health issues, abortion and post-care, condom use, and STI management.
The Ugandan government has implemented a variety of policies and measures to address some of the issues that young people experience in the country, including the National Adolescent Policy for Uganda, 2004, The Ugandan School Health Policy, as well as the Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Maternal Mortality from Unsafe Abortions in Uganda (April 2005), have yet to be finalized and implemented.
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated a situation that was already difficult. Due to the lockdown, vital Sexual and Reproductive Health services such as modern contraception, especially condoms, have been difficult to obtain in Uganda during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown has interrupted education, putting young people at risk of Gender-Based Violence and unintended births. The situation has been worsened by the growth in internet prices, which have restricted access to information.
THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL.
The National Youth Council was founded by the National Youth Council Statute 1993 to unite Uganda’s youth, involve them in activities that benefit them and the country, and safeguard them from manipulation. District-level Youth Councils are used at the grassroots level to interact with community leaders on problems that affect the community. Youth councils are also used to involve youth in government initiatives and to provide any updates or partnerships with non-profit groups as well as information about forthcoming community activities.
The National Youth Council is made up of Youth Members of Parliament and members elected through the Electoral College system of election created by members of the National Youth Council meeting, and ensuring that they have access to essential information is critical to policy implementation and Youth leaders can also help with the monitoring of government and private youth development programs.
To reduce the barriers that young people confront in gaining access to SRHR and improving their livelihood, the Uganda National Youth Council should:
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT, CIVIL SOCIETY & THE TASK FORCE.
For God and My Country.