Parents who fail to report that their teenage daughters are pregnant will be arrested, Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding has said.
Failure to report the cases makes it difficult for authorities to arrest and prosecute people who engage in sexual relations with underage girls.
Some parents, he said, were extorting money from perpetrators to protect them from arrest, thereby denying the victims justice.
Some 1,458 teenage girls in Isiolo became pregnant between January and November, down from 2,256 in 2021.
Early pregnancies among schoolgirls is one of the major impediments to the government's quest to raise literacy levels in the region.
Mr Omoding directed chiefs and their assistants to find the girls and ensure they return to school, saying the government wants to see all learners reach the highest level of education.
“The era of looking the other way and letting perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence walk scot-free must end. Teenage pregnancies pose a serious threat to young girls and are unacceptable,” he said.
Most of the girls are lured into having unprotected sex with young men in exchange for basic items such as sanitary towels, fall victim out of curiosity about sex and the urge to experiment or are influenced by their peers.
About 21 million girls aged 15-19 in developing countries become pregnant every year, World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
Adolescent mothers face higher risks of eclampsia – convulsions that occur during pregnancy or shortly after birth and infections of the genital tract.
During yesterday's events to mark World Aids Day at the Isiolo town police grounds, Mr Omoding lamented rising infections among adolescents and young people, saying this posed a major threat in the campaign to end HIV and Aids by 2030.
Isiolo recorded a surge in HIV prevalence from 1.3 percent in 2021 to 1.8 percent this year, with mother to child transmissions now at 22.1 percent, according to county HIV and Aids coordinator Diba Galma.
Some 20 new infections among adolescents and 33 among those aged 15-24 have been reported since January, with the total number of residents with the virus at 3,347, he said.
Because of the high rate of infection among adolescents and youths, Mr Galma said his office was sensitising locals on the need to avoid unprotected sex, but he lamented inadequate funding.
“We have established 22 comprehensive care centres across our health facilities to offer testing for expectant women so that we can prevent vertical transmission and also have point of care centres where they can pick up the drugs,” Mr Galma said.
Of those who have the virus, only 1,882 visit health facilities to pick up antiretroviral drugs, with some suspected to be getting the drugs from neighbouring counties because they fear stigma.
To beat stigma and encourage people with HIV to live with a positive attitude, Isiolo Interfaith Network chairperson Ahmed Sett and secretary Stephen Kalunyu urged residents to be compassionate and show love to them.
“They are our brothers and sisters and we should therefore treat them well and support them,” said Mr Sett, who is also the treasurer of the National Council of Elders.
Mr Kalunyu, of Nica church, asked HIV patients to take ARV drugs religiously so as to boost their immunity. He also appealed to the county government to provide them with food.
“This is not a death sentence. You can live for long if you consistently take the drugs as prescribed by the medics,” he said.
The clerics warned parents against allowing their daughters to be hired as domestic helpers, saying they fall prey to young men.
“Spend ample time with them to understand the challenges they go through and offer them moral guidance so that they do not become pregnant while in school,” he appealed.
Youth leader Osman Shariff Abukar said emphasising good morals was a better way to prevent new HIV infections compared with urging young people to use condoms.
“Condoms encourage infidelity because one believes they will not get infected even after sleeping with many women. We should teach young people good morals and inculcate the culture of being faithful to their partners if they have any,” Mr Abukar said.
Mr Omoding lamented that most men were not seeking HIV testing and encouraged them to do so.
“Visit voluntary counseling and testing centres to know your status. A majority of us carry medicine (in our pockets) to treat various illnesses. HIV is no different,” he said at the celebrations that only a few men attended.
He asked parents to monitor their children during the December holidays to ensure they are not lured into promiscuous behaviour, warned them against subjecting girls to female genital mutilation.