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Uganda should invest more in healthcare and education to realize an accelerated economic growth. This is according to a report released by Marie Stopes Uganda on Friday.
The report which was released in commemoration of the World Population Day was aimed at highlighting how Uganda can leverage her population dynamics for a resilient future amidst Covid-19.
While there is no silver bullet intervention, Dr. Carole Sekimpi, the Country director Marie Stopes Uganda said that investment in three sectors — health care, education and labour is more likely to help Uganda achieve the demographic dividend.
The demographic dividend refers to the accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population as it transitions from high to low birth and death rates.
“Some women have many children because of the fear that some will die, but if they see that the survival rate is improving then the urge to have many children is likely to reduce.” Dr. Carole Sekimpi explained, adding that, “we then must invest in education so that the population is skilled and can make a meaningful contribution to the economy. “
Uganda is predominantly young population with 49% said to be below 15 years. It also has a total fertility rate of 5.4%, maternal mortality rate of 316 per 100,000, and teenage pregnancy rate at 25% which is amongst the highest globally.
The data further shows that one in every four girls aged 15 -19 years is already a mother or pregnant with her first child.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a further increase in teenage pregnancies among adolescent girls and young women as a result of limitation in access to family planning services and lack of information.
Peter Ddungu, the Project Director at Marie Stopes Uganda says there was a significant drop in demand for sexual and reproductive health services as the country went into lockdown mid-March as a combative measure against the spread of Coronavirus.
“We had to recall our outreach teams and regional staff in April, and this saw us make just a fraction of our normal volume.” Peter Ddungu explained.
However, there has since been a realization that sexual and reproductive health services are essential and demand urgent and sustained attention and investment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ensuring availability of family planning SRH services during this crisis is critical to preventing the long-term vulnerability of unplanned pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and other reproductive health challenges including gender-based violence which has increased with the current lock down.
“We still anticipate to hit our initial annual target in service impact for the year 2020 but the cost of delivery will go up as we adopt the guidelines issued by Ministry of Health such as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment.” Ddungu added.