The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has committed to continue its support towards Uganda’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for women, girls including disadvantaged and vulnerable populations,” stated Daniel Alemu, the UNFPA Deputy Representative.
“UNFPA, with funding from the Netherlands Embassy, has been implementing a four-year program dubbed Advancing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (ANSWER) with the main aim of contributing to the achievement of universal access to SRHR.”
“The 25 million Euros project (approximately 100 billion Shillings) was being implemented in the 14 districts of the West Nile and Acholi Sub-region benefiting both the host and South Sudan refugee population,” Alemu continued.
“With the program now coming to an end, the West Nile and Acholi Sub-regions remain an area of focus for UNFPA and will continue receiving support.”
“This,” he explained, “is due to the high number of teenage pregnancy cases registered as highlighted in the country’s demographic and health survey report 2022.” Alemu made these remarks at the close-out meeting of the four-year ANSWER project in Gulu City on Tuesday, where several governmental and non-governmental partners converged to review the success of the project.
“Our support to the region has been significant,” Alemu added, “and we’ve been able to hold engagements with cultural leaders in addressing challenges young people face, especially early child marriages, teen pregnancies, and female genital mutilation in the region.”
“At least 429 teen mothers throughout the project implementation were able to return to school,” Alemu stated. “And a significant reduction of school absenteeism due to menstrual Health monitoring interventions was reduced according to UNFPA officials.”
Joost Van Ettro, Deputy Head of Mission at the Netherlands Embassy, emphasized, “While the project comes to an end with key achievements in strengthening the health system in the region, attention to curbing teenage pregnancy needs to be heightened.” Ettro stressed the importance of having honest discussions about sex in order to address this issue effectively.
“The issue of teenage pregnancy,” Ettro said, “requires comprehensive solutions, and it’s crucial that our efforts are evidenced based.”
According to a UNFPA report on teenage pregnancy in 2021, West Nile was among the top six regions that registered the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies, with the most affected districts being Arua (4,705 cases) and Yumbe (3,973 cases).
Dr. Charles Olaro, the Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health, acknowledged the challenges and stated, “Approximately 600,000 teenage pregnancy cases are registered across the country annually, and this prevents girls from achieving their full potential in life.”
Beneficiaries of the ANSWER project expressed their gratitude for the initiative. Beatrice Dorah Ajok, 18, a student at Lwani Memorial College in Amuru district, shared her experience: “I have learned how to speak with confidence about sexual reproductive issues, make my own sanitary pads, and give advice to my fellow peers through the mentorship program.”
Sharon Akumu, another student from Pabbo Senior Secondary School in Amuru district, echoed these sentiments, saying that the mentorship program helped her avoid peer pressure and prioritize education.
According to UNFPA, by the end of 2022, the ANSWER project had reached out to about 1.5 million people in the Acholi and West Nile region with information on sexual and reproductive health rights and benefited some 959,000 individuals in 210 supported facilities.