A joint survey released on 28 October 2022 by Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA) and the county government of Kilifi, indicate that teen pregnancies have increased by 30 per cent.
Between 2021 and 2022 Kilifi county recorded 5,581 cases of teenage pregnancies.
The survey further indicates that; one in five adolescents aged 15–19 years are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
The report further indicated that 1,396 of the recorded cases are children between the age of 10 and 14 years.
Kilifi County Focal Person for Reproductive Sex Maternal Child and Adolescent Health, Kenneth Miriti, says that the majority of females who visited prenatal clinics in the county are aged between 10 and 14.
” It’s disturbing to see a ten year old heavily pregnant ”, Miriti said.
Early childbearing can increase risks for newborns as well as young mothers. Babies born to teenage mothers face higher risks of low birth weight among infants, prolonged and difficult labour, haemorrhage among other severe complications.
Miriti says , implementing comprehensive sexuality education in Kenya is a persistent challenge, drawing fierce pushback from the ministry of education and the ministry of health.
Messages conveyed to students are reportedly fear-inducing and judgmental or focused on abstinence, emphasizing that sex is dangerous and immoral for young people.
”The rules placed in the ministry education forbids sex education to children of that age bracket by other stakeholders except those that are in the education curriculum .I think something needs to be done to serve a community”, he added.
He further noted that building and sustaining community awareness on adolescence, sexual and reproductive health should be considered in the campaign for teen pregnancy prevention.
Hunger, high cost of living and poverty have also been cited as the main causes of the rise of teenage pregnancies in the county.
Mumina Alaso a community health volunteer says parents need to talk to their children on the dangers of premarital sex.
“It is morally wrong to be talking about a 10-year-old being a mother. We need to go back to our moral values to avoid such things happening to our girls,” she said.
”The topic is taboo at home. Let us not lie to ourselves, our kids are having sex”, she said.
With the biting drought a larger percentage of school going children are out of class because of hunger, something that might spell doom, health experts say.
Human Rights organizations and gender activists are now calling for a robust strategy to tame this menace, which spells doom for girls if not tamed.
Residents within the area have decried the situation calling for immediate action from the authorities.
One of the mothers of an underage girl who got pregnant at 13 explained to the media how she had hopes for her daughter’s future.
”The dream of every father or mother is to bring up children that would be great through good education. It is traumatizing as a parent to see your baby having a baby, my daughter got pregnant when she was 13 years in class five”, said Magret Kache , a mother of three.
As the county makes some strides in tackling early pregnancies, Kilifi still faces a ticking time bomb of the rise of Gender based violence(GBV) cases among women and girls.
The new data also indicated that GBV is still prevalent, with about half of the violent cases being meted by an intimate partner.
The report indicated that girls suffered the most from defilement, attempted defilement, child marriage, and teenage pregnancy.
The report also indicated an increase in girls procuring abortions, engaging in drug abuse, and being neglected and sexually violated by family members and relatives, and confined unlawfully.
”GBV cases have increased by 20 percent in the last one year. Only 3 out of 10 survivors seek help from the police ‘,reads part of the report.
Besides teenage pregnancy and GBV, the new data released recently also shows that Kilifi county’s government advocacy on the use of contraceptive among sexually active women in Kilifi for the prevention of unwanted pregnancy and abortion is beginning to yield positive results as more women are recorded to be embracing the method.
Compiled data survey from PMA on health shows that contraceptive use among sexually active women of child bearing age increased by nine per cent compared to 2014.