Over 14,530 babies aborted in 2020-21 in Acholi sub-region

High number of teenagers are dying due to abortion complications – MOH
Lockdown led to a spike in teenage pregnancies with related abortion cases. COURTESY PHOTO

Acholi, Uganda | URN | Medics in Acholi sub-region in northern Uganda are concerned over the growing number of teenage girls and women carrying out unsafe abortions in the region.

This comes at the backdrop of a troubling report indicating a total of 14,530 cases of post-abortion care were registered in various health facilities between 2020 and 2021 alone. Nearly half of those who had to be treated, were so seriously endangered that they had to be admitted.

The number of those who aborted successfully and did not require medical care afterwards is not given.

The report captured from health facilities in the districts of Nwoya, Omoro, Pader, Kitgum, Lamwo, Gulu, Amuru, and Agago, indicates 2,922 (38 per cent) of the abortion cases registered in Out Patient Department (OPD) were teenagers. Out of the total cases registered, 7,729 cases were registered in OPD while 6,801 were from the inpatient department.

The report shows that the highest number of post-abortion care was registered in Gulu with 2,775 admitted in the inpatient department and 2,043 attended to in OPD followed by Pader district where 2,037 cases were registered in OPD and 361 cases admitted to the inpatient department.

Kitgum district registered the third-highest abortion cases with 1,392 attended to at the OPD and 1,122 admitted, while Agago registered 846 in the inpatient department and 767 in OPD. In Nwoya district, 691 patients were admitted to the inpatient department while 273 were attended to from OPD, while Amuru district had 495 cases registered in OPD and 193 patients admitted to the inpatient department.

Meanwhile, in Omoro district, 421 cases were admitted to inpatient and 349 at OPD, and Lamwo district recorded 391 cases in the inpatient and 371 attended to from OPD. Gulu district health officer, Yoweri Idiba says cases of induced and non-induced abortion in the region are on the rise and worrying arguing that there is a need for more sensitization to be conducted.

Idiba says with the recent report, there is an indication that close to 4,000 cases of induced and non-induced abortion are being registered in the region annually. He notes that the Covid-19 pandemic period that saw the government closing down learning institutions contributed greatly to the rise in teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion mostly in rural areas.

“The trend is increasing, so it’s a challenge, every year over 2,000 children are lost through abortion both induced and non-induced which is a big challenge because its climbing up,” said Idiba.

Patiko clan chief Collins Atiko also reiterates that the two years of COVID-19 lockdown unearth underlying challenges that hadn’t been witnessed in the region among the teenage girls. Atiko says there is a need for various stakeholders to join hands and boost peer education in the community to help reduce cases of teenage pregnancies that continues to be registered in the region.

He suggested the involvement of peer educators who speak the language of the young people to spearhead campaigns against teenage pregnancies.

“If you don’t involve the peer groups, we will not be making any progress at all,” says Atiko.

Read Also: Abortion: The alternative contraceptive among youth in Uganda?

Besides abortion, the region also grappled with increasing cases of teenage pregnancy whether it ends in abortion or not. For instance, in Gulu city alone, between July 2020 to June 2021, a total of 1,675 cases of teenage pregnancy were registered while between June 2021 to date, 1354 cases were recorded.

Meanwhile, in Gulu district, a total of 2,186 teenage pregnancy cases have been registered from July 2020 to date. Early this year, medics in Gulu district and Gulu city tasked the local government leaders in the region to regulate the sale of abortion-inducing drugs owing to several complications that resulted from its usage among teenage girls and women.

The medics particularly zeroed on Misoprostol/Cytotec drug as one of the most commonly abused drugs. Abortion is illegal in Uganda. The Penal Code Act (Cap. 120), in sections 141, 142, and 143 criminalizes abortion, attempted abortion, and the sale of drugs intended to aid an abortion.