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Youths need easy access to sexual health services

Current version: August 11, 2013


Tomorrow, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Youth day under the theme: “Invest in Youth Livelihood: A Pathway to Achieving Vision 2040.”

Uganda has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world. Over 78 per cent of our population is under 30 years old.

According to the State of Uganda Population Report 2012, Ugandan youths remain at a significant risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore according to the report, 36 per cent of young women are engaging in high-risk sexual activity as opposed to 49 per cent of young men.

This has contributed to Uganda’s high rate of teenage pregnancy. Other factors leading to high rates of pregnancy among adolescents include poverty, gender inequality, failure of institutions and systems to protect girls’ rights, lack of education and information. Investing in young people’s sexual reproductive health has a direct contribution towards improving their livelihoods.

This can be through availing timely reproductive health information and education through mobile technology such as hotlines aimed at ensuring that these youth have a platform to discuss various issues related to their sexual and reproductive health.

Hotlines are essentially telephone lines established to provide information to a caller or to serve as an entry point for first-time counseling and act as a referral service. Hotlines have proved to be excellent behaviour change communication tools that can reach young people in both urban and rural settings.

Marie Stopes Uganda (MSU) launched a free hotline supported by USAID and DFID last year to provide information, counselling and referral services to young people on sexual reproductive health.

By dialing 0800120333, young people can speak to a trained educator and get accurate information about sexual reproductive health in general, correct use of condoms, family planning methods, HIV/Aids and referrals to youth friendly health centres.

Our records show that the multilingual hotline, which operates from 7.00am to 8.00pm, receives an average of 180 calls a day. What is instructive is that young people make up the majority of the callers (70 per cent). This is a strong indicator that young people have significant unmet need for services. Youths can also send free text messages on 8228 – messages that are also responded to by trained counsellors.

The hotline has been able to provide counselling and referral sites to empower youth, especially girls, make smart health choices that prevent early pregnancy and keep them in school therefore reducing the gender gap for adolescents in school. To date, over 5,000 young people have gained high quality information about reproductive health and have been referred to a nearby health center for more support.

There is still need to promote the hotline in places which are often frequented by young people in Uganda both in the urban and rural settings. The hotline also requires additional support from partners so that the service can be available for 24 hours, seven days a week. The project can also be easily replicated in other sectors to tackle other social problems.

Other youth-led groups and organizations can also adopt the use of the toll free hotline to further address the needs of young people. The approach has been proven to be effective as the clients prefer to use it due to the quality of information, counselling and referral networks that they get from trained counselors as well as the fact that all exchange of information is confidential.

Therefore in order to increase productivity of young people in society, the government and other stakeholders need to seriously consider innovative technologies to address their reproductive health needs. Young people need constant education to develop the knowledge and skills they need to protect their lives. The government, therefore, needs to recognise and promote efforts by different actors aimed at promoting access to health services for young people at a national level.

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Sexual assault? Punishment?

Current version: January 10, 2016

By: Adrian Renner

A woman school teacher was booked under POCSO on Saturday for allegedly “sexually assaulting” a six-year-old girl at Navodaya Vidyaniketan School in JC Nagar on Friday. But Department of Public Instruction officials said that it was not a sexual assault, but a case of corporal punishment.The girl’s parents approached the RT Nagar police station on Friday evening and filed a sexual assault case after the child started bleeding from the nose while playing outside her house.

When asked, the first standard girl told her parents that she was beaten up by a woman school teacher, who also hurt her private parts. The police immediately registered an FIR and sent the girl for medical examination at B.R. Amebdkar Medical College and Hospital.Police sources said that the doctors found injury marks on the girl’s private parts, but did not confirm sexual assault.

When the news spread, hundreds of parents gathered near the school on Jindal Main Road on Saturday morning and protested. Around 50 of them sat on the road and demanded action against the accused teacher, principal and the management.

Many parents who spoke to the media said that it was the first such incident reported from the school. “The school is known for discipline and good results as well as extra-curricular activities. It is a budget school and has a good reputation. But this incident has sent shock waves among the parents,” they said.

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Herbal medicine kills patient

Current version: September 09, 2010

By: Job Weru

A woman is said to have collapsed and died in Laikipia East District, after consuming concoctions administered to her by a herbal practitioner.

Sarah Waithira, 36, had complained of diarrhea and vomiting before she reportedly sought treatment from a herbal practitioner at Nturukuma village on Tuesday afternoon.

Laikipia OCPD James Kithuka said the herbal "doctor" prescribed some concoctions to cure her ailments.

"She took the dose, but she collapsed immediately after and was rushed to Nanyuki District Hospital," said Kithuka.

Waithira died on arrival at the hospital, said Kithuka.

Following the unprecedented death, police arrested the herbal ‘doctor’ and took away samples of the concoctions.

"We have released the samples for analysis at the government chemist, while the suspect is being held at Nanyuki Police Station for further investigations," said Kithuka.

The body is at the hospital’s mortuary for a post mortem.

The police boss said the suspect will be arraigned in court once investigations are complete.

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