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ADJUMANI: Leaders from eleven districts in the West Nile sub region have adopted a declaration to ensure inclusion an integrated package of rights for women, girls and young people. This commitment is in line with an accelerated promise to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for Family Planning and zero Gender Based Violence, including child marriage and other harmful practices to ensure reproductive rights and choices for all.

During a one-day pre-world population day symposium organized by The National Population Council with support from UNFPA in Adjumani district on July 10, the leaders also committed to integrate sexual and reproductive health issues in their district development plans, sector  annual work plans and budgets to accelerate the promise of achieving the ICPD agenda.

In recognition that the sub-region has a high population of young people, with high levels of teenage pregnancies, school dropout rates, maternal deaths and gender based violence, the leaders committed to ensure that girls stay in school, child marriages are curbed and access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for young people are increased.

Representing district Leaders of Adjumani, Arua, Koboko, Maracha, Moyo, Yumbe, Pakwach, Nebbi, Zombo, Madi-Okollo and Obongi, Moyo district chairperson Williams Anyama said they are ready to work with cultural, traditional and religious leaders to advocate against child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

“No cultural or religious institution provides a marriage certificate when underage child is involved,” Anyama said.

The declaration thus commits to promote active male involvement to ensure that all expectant mothers deliver at a health centre, promote access to information for family planning services and enforce implementation of laws and policies that govern gender based violence and promote the rights of women, girls, boys and men.

According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), total fertility rate in the west Nile region stands at 6.2 compared to the national figure of 5.4. Within the region, Zombo and Arua districts have the highest rate of adolescent motherhood with lowest modern contraceptive prevalence rate and a high dependency burden. In the same region, maternal mortality ratio stands at over 898 deaths per 100,000 live births; compared to national figures of 336 deaths per 100,000 live births.

While making his remarks during the symposium, Rt. Hon. Moses Ali, the First Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the area Member of Parliament, decried the high number of maternal deaths in the region. He expressed concern that many young girls continue to have babies when they are children themselves, thus depriving them of an opportunity to education and skilling and undermines their ability to fulfill their potential, calling for concerted efforts to curb the high rates.

"It’s a pity that maternal mortality in the west Nile region is very high. We should find out why this is so and save those mothers,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Read the full declaration here:

- Story by Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi