As the World grapple to contain the deadly COVID-19 that has so far claimed over half a million lives. Here in Kenya there is no different evil creeping into the Society, that is the underage pregnancies that is worrying both the religious leaders and the government at large.
A report recently released by National Council on Population and Development (NCPD) shows that two out of five teenagers in the country are either young mothers or are pregnant.
Since the pandemic hit, 20,828 girls aged between 10 and 14 years have become mothers while the older girls aged between 15-19 years, 24,106 are either pregnant or are mothers already. This is the stuck truth in our Country right now.
Here are the statistics reflection, between January and May, 4,000 girls aged below 19 years were reported pregnant in Machakos County. Moreover, according to a local publication, Daily Nation, Nairobi County 22,000, Nakuru county reported 1,748 teen pregnancies, Kajiado (1,523), Kericho (1,006), Homa Bay (957) and Garissa (901), while other counties such as Lamu, Embu and Elgeyo Marakwet each reported about 50 cases of underage pregnancies each. Please note these are known cases.
A further scrutiny of teen pregnancy statistics in Kenya reveals that between July 2016 and June 2017, Kenya recorded 278,397 adolescent and teenage pregnancies for girls aged 10-19 years, specifically, 28, 932 girls aged 10-14 and 349,465 girls aged 15-19 became pregnant, according to a United Nations Population Fund Report. So I dearly it can’t just be blamed on Coronavirus.
However, despite the fact that teen pregnancies have been a menace in the country, over the last few years, the latest data shows that the numbers peaked in the month of March after schools were closed over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Who are aiding this vice? what are the causes
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that teen pregnancies are more likely to occur in marginalized communities, commonly driven by poverty and lack of education and employment opportunities.
Poverty pushes girls into activities that expose them to sexual exploitation and having sex in exchange for money and food. In such situations, young girls are not in a position to negotiate safer sex and are often at risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and violence such as rape.
While the country’s Ministry of Education has acknowledged the need to provide information on sexuality, the lack of access to comprehensive sex education in schools is seen to be a key contributor to teenage pregnancy as very few adolescents receive comprehensive sex education.
Another barrier to providing sex education in schools is the resistance by some organizations who claim that the responsibility lies with the parents.
“When teenagers get pregnant, they drop out of school and their life is wasted. Parents should be responsible enough and regularly advice their young ones,” he said.
Plan International, an organization that engages that operate in Slums on issues parenting and reproductive affairs is calling for governments to prioritize and fully fund Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as part of their COVID-19 response plans, recognizing the essential and life-saving nature of these services.
However, the issues of at hand requires very immediate measures from both stakeholders and the government. And of importance parents need to create time for their children and of importance speak to them on such issues.