Refugee Girls Report ‘Torture’ of Early Pregnancy Due to COVID School Closures

Nov. 25, 2021

A woman holds her child
COVID-19 related lockdowns and school closures have denied a safe space to thousands of young women around the globe. A survey conducted among out-of-school girls in refugee settlements in Uganda showed a 22.5% increase in teenage pregnancies compared to last year.

Uganda Survey

The group of 400 girls aged between 10-24 told War Child about the devastating impact of more than 80 weeks of on-and-off lockdown and school closures. All girls involved in the survey were heavily pregnant.

Our findings reveal that the majority (75%) of the girls became pregnant during school closures this year while only 25% became pregnant while at school during partial re-opening. Asked how they had become pregnant, they cited ‘being out of school for a long period of time’ as the main contributing factor. This was followed by a lack of basic needs and a lack of sex education, among others.

Psychological Torture

As a whole, the survey found that the longer children - especially children in refugee settlements - are out of school, the less likely they are to ever return. Over a quarter (26%) of the girls said they would not return to school after giving birth for reasons including early marriage, unaffordable education or simply the fact that they had no one to care for their child whilst at school. They also referred to stigma - the fear of being shamed by their schoolmates.

Psychological torture - the intentional infliction of severe mental pain or suffering - was presented as one of the worst effects of unplanned pregnancy.

“Psychological torture - the intentional infliction of severe mental pain or suffering - was presented as one of the worst effects of unplanned pregnancy."