A total of 5,534 girls under 20 years, in the Upper East Region, got pregnant in the first 10 months of 2021, the Catholic Health Service of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocesan Development Organisation (NABOCADO) has said.
Mr Peter Akudugu Ayamba, the Primary Healthcare Coordinator of NABOCADO who made this known at a stakeholder forum organised by NABOCADO in Bolgatanga, said the figures were taken from Ghana Health Service and represented 15.4 percent of the population of girls below 20 years in the Region.
The stakeholder engagement which brought together representatives from the Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service, Departments of Children and Gender, Department of Social Welfare, Community Development and District Assemblies, among others as part of efforts of the Catholic Church to work with stakeholders to curb the rising cases of teenage pregnancy and child marriage in the diocese.
It was also part of the implementation of a three-year project under ‘the promoting child health initiative’ and sponsored by the Kindermissionswerk, a German-based organisation.
It is being piloted in 20 communities and 60 schools in four districts of the Upper East Region– Nabdam, Bongo, Kassena-Nankana West Districts and Builsa North Municipality.
Mr Ayamba said child marriage was also prevalent in the region, with current figures revealing that 13.5 percent and 34.8 percent of girls in the region got married before 15 and 18 years respectively.
He said teenage pregnancy and child marriage were a violation of the universal declaration on human rights and a dent in efforts at attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The Child Health Project being implemented by the Catholic Church is to leverage synergies towards safeguarding teenage girls against pregnancies and early marriage”, he added.
He said the project would collaborate with active and identified community groups and stakeholders to prioritise and intensify sensitization on adolescent reproductive health education at both schools and communities.
Dr Joseph Ayembilla, the Human Development Coordinator, NABOCADO, explained that the incessant increase in the number of young girls getting pregnant and getting married before turning 18 was worrisome and urgent attention was needed to address the issue.
He said there were several laws and conventions, both national and international, that sought to protect the interest, growth and development of the child, however, teenage pregnancy and child marriage continued to be the bane in achieving the set targets.
Dr Ayembilla said, “over the years, poverty, ignorance and socio-cultural practices had continued to push vulnerable girls into giving themselves out to men and getting pregnant and were sometimes forced into marriage”.
He, therefore, called on stakeholders to prioritise teenage pregnancy and child marriage and support efforts geared at addressing the canker.
Reverend Francis Adagyine, the Diocesan Child Protection Coordinator, said the youth were the future of the Church and country and stakeholders needed to support all efforts to reverse the negative trend.
Mr George Awuni, the Deputy Regional Director in charge of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) applauded the Catholic Church for its efforts over the years with regards to child rights promotion and noted that when the project received the needed backing, it would contribute to reducing teenage pregnancy and child marriage in communities.