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The Acholi religious leaders have been asked to preach against teenage pregnancies and early marriages in their routine sermon and talk about good moral behaviors.

Charles Serwanja, the manager Public Health and UNFPA Coordinator at Inter-religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) said there are increasing teenage pregnancies and early marriages among young girls and young boys in the region.

He said this is because religious leaders have left out their work of moral teaching in the church.

Serwanja made the remarks during a regional Faith Based Organization symposium in Gulu City last week.

The event was organized for religious leaders in Acholi with the theme “exploring gaps and opportunities for integrated sexual reproductive system, HIV and gender based violence programming.”

He noted that: “The silence of religious leaders in the region is doing harm to these young girls and there is need for our religious leaders to preach against teenage pregnancies and early marriages to reduce the immorality rate in Acholi sub-region.”

Serwanja cited Acholi sub-regions as the most affected region in the country with high cases of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, high HIV prevalence among youth with increasing gender based violence.

He said this calls for firm policies on the problems.

The symposium follows a report by the Comboni missionary Samaritans, a Catholic charity working in Acholi that indicates that over 17,000 girls were impregnated, some of them as young as 12 years old, by both teenage boys and adult men in the eight districts of northern Uganda during the first two months of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.

Comboni Missionaries Samaritans estimate the number of pregnant girls in the eight districts to have risen threefold after the first lockdown 18 months ago.

Cinderella Anena, the programme Analyst Delivery of Rights in charge of Sexual Reproductive Health Right, GBV and HIV at UNFPA said everyday 18 girls between the age of 10-19 are impregnated in Acholi sub region.

Anena said this year alone between January and October a number of 1,942 girls got pregnant in Agago district leading in Acholi sub region according to the data obtained from the health centers within the district.

“Our religious leaders, you are in the top three categories of people where the community claims you are not doing your work to solve the problems in the community,” Anena said.

She said these teenage girls on realizing that they are pregnant after their first antenatal care in the health center they shunned their second antenatal care visit, a risky decision that can lead to maternal deaths labour.

Reverend Beatrice Aber, the community development coordinator Diocese of Kitgum admitted that there is a need for religious leaders to work as a team to combat the vice in the community using the available platforms at their disposal.

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