Authorities in Napak district are struggling to contain a decrease in cases of teenage pregnancies due to the absence of a court and shelters in the area.
According to statistics from the district, more than 3,395 got pregnant between 2020 and 2023. the district recorded 1,053 cases in 2020, a number that later jumped high to 1,196 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The numbers reduced to 984 in 2022 and 62 have been registered between January and March 2023.
Napak Senior Probation and Welfare Officer Molly Nangiro told URN that the numbers could be higher than captured because some cases still go unreported. Nangiro noted that although they are committed to ending pregnancies among young girls, their effort has been frustrated by the absence of a justice system in the district.
She said that currently, they spend a lot to transport victims and suspects to Moroto district to attend the court sessions, and this has demoralized parents from following up on some of the defilement cases. Nangiro also noted that teenage pregnancies are now seen as a normal occurrence in these communities.
“Poverty has also exposed our girls to danger, when they go to look for survival, most of them are lured into sex in an exchange for money or gifts and in the process they end up getting pregnant,” Nangiro observed.
Nangiro appealed to the government to provide sexual reproductive health information because some of the adolescents have fallen victim as a result of ignorance.
Napak Chief Administrative Officer Jackson Byaruhanga says that they have been battling cases of teenage pregnancies due lack of better facilities for protecting girls. Byaruhanga added that although schools would be the only safe haven for girls, the district does not have enough of them. Napak district has only three secondary schools.
Byaruhanga also noted that the parents should be engaged and taught how to generate income so that they can support their girls and discourage them from being lured into dubious activities.
Meanwhile, Alex Basaija, the Senior Probation and Welfare Officer at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development urged parents to register their children for birth certificates because they come in handy when authorities have to deal with defilement cases. Basaija noted that many defilement cases are lost because of failure to prove the age of the victims.
Byaruhanga reiterated that the Ministry of Gender is trying all possible means to lobby for the court establishment in Napak district to help bring services nearer to the people and cut transportation costs.