There has been a rise in teenage pregnancies across the country – a situation that was worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of the pandemic, schools were closed for over 7 months, exposing young girls to further risk of getting pregnant, as many had put it, ‘it was hard for parents to monitor their children for seven consecutive months while at home’.
In Uasin Gishu alone, over 2,000 cases of teenage pregnancies were reported during the ‘lockdown period’ – not to mention the fact that these are statistics for only three of the six sub-counties in the county.
Data shared by Reprodrive, a Community Based Organization (CBO) in the county indicated that Kesses Sub County had the highest number of teenage pregnancies during the period with 824 cases followed by Soy (793) and Turbo (700).
Teenage pregnancies have been an issue of concern among leaders in the county, with the Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno revealing that Uasin Gishu had registered over 27,000 teenage pregnancies within the last four years.
“If a single school has 400 children, how many schools are those that we have lost as a result of pregnancies?” Chemno lamented.
But even as many blame the high teenage pregnancies on the Covid-19 lockdown, Kigen Kisorio, a program manager at Reprodrive CBO says poverty and lack of sexual awareness among girls have been major contributing factors for the current situation.
“Girls have many needs like sanitary pads and once their parents or guardians have no ability to provide for them, they usually opt for transactional sex,” Kisorio told Uasin Gishu News.
“The easiest way these girls will get cash is through involvement with bodaboda operators and for lack of sexuality education, many end up engaging in unprotected sex that usually leads to pregnancy,” he added.
Most of the girls involved in transactional sex are aged between 10-19 years, many of who end up opting for unsafe abortion.
According to Reprodrive CBO, the average abortion rate in Uasin Gishu County is higher than the national average – statistics that should worry relevant stakeholders.
The abortion rate for Kenya is estimated to be 55 per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-49).
With abortion being illegal in Kenya, many girls usually opt to go for untrained individuals to get rid of the pregnancies, putting themselves at a risk.
“There are a lot of cases of unsafe abortions in Uasin Gishu. The girls use different means among them drinking highly concentrated strong tea, overdose on paracetamols while others opt for self-inflicted injury to take advantage of a provision that in such cases, they might be helped to abort at a health facility.”– Kigen Kisorio, Programs officer Reprodrive CBO
There are also some health facilities that offer illegal abortion services for as low as Ksh5,000.
“These things happen, you will not be the first one. If you want an abortion, we can look for a good drug for you that won’t bring complications at Ksh5,000 and you will be just fine,” a doctor who procures abortions in Eldoret town was privately recorded by Uasin Gishu News.
As a way out of this challenge that the girl-child face, Kisorio calls for society to accept sexual education in schools.
“Community need to allow comprehensive sexuality education to the girls that will enable them to know what to expect and how to be careful. The department of guiding and counseling should also introduce sexual education – even though some argue it leads to prolixity which is not true, on the contrary, it helps the girl-child.”– Kigen Kisorio, Programs officer Reprodrive CBO
On his part, the Uasin Gishu chairman of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) Sheikh Abubakar Bini says it is up to the parents to look for ways that will ensure their children grow up knowing the dangers that come with a sexual relationship with the opposite sex.
“As parents, we have forgotten our roles of taking care of our children. Religious leaders have also not put in place strategies that will help instill good morals on our children.”– Sheikh Abubakar Bini, CIPK Chairman Uasin Gishu.