Shock as Samburu records 832 teenage pregnancies between January and March
What you need to know:
At least 10 underage girls became pregnant in Samburu County daily between January and March this year, a health survey has revealed.
Statistics from the county’s Health department show that 832 teenagers became pregnant between January and March this year and health officials fear that the number will skyrocket by the end of the year if nothing is done.
Youth, Gender and Social Services director Nasieku Letipila said a collaborative approach and commitment are needed for partners to succeed in the fight against teen pregnancies in the region.
Ms Nasieku said situations such as socioeconomic hardships and retrogressive cultural practices such as FGM and forced marriages were the major contributing factors in the rise of teenage pregnancies.
She said cultural expectations in Samburu on abstinence also resulted in a surge in pregnancies since January.
"We have recorded more teenage pregnancies since January and this can have lifelong consequences for [the girls] and that is why we are extremely concerned," said Ms Nasieku, adding that childbearing in adolescence often has negative effects on parents, their children and the whole society.
"Many girls continue to experience related complications, including mortality due to birth-related complications and unsafe abortions."
In Samburu, adolescent pregnancy is generally not the result of a deliberate choice, but most girls often have little say in decisions affecting their lives due to retrogressive cultural practices. Most girls in the region are left exposed to numerous risks, including domestic violence, besides lacking basic necessities.
Ms Nasieku said the county's Social Services department is out to sensitise the community to abandon outdated cultural practices that have also contributed to the increase in teen pregnancies, such as FGM and early marriages.
Cases of FGM are still increasing in the county and once a girl has undergone the procedure, she is married off. Ms Nasieku said they have brought on board all stakeholders to help ensure that the numbers decline.
Samburu is also seeking to start a mobile humanitarian response to gender-based violence (GBV) as cases increase across the county. Officials want to shift from urban-based service delivery to an innovative mobile service model for GBV response.
As psychosocial support and case management are proving to save the lives of people who are at risk of physical, sexual and psychological GBV, these services are often unavailable in remote of the county.
Ms Nasieku said many barriers prevent survivors from accessing immediate help. She said these include lack of information on where to report, fear of re-traumatisation at police gender desks, and societal shaming.
"Many do not report them due to a range of factors, among them lack of knowledge and fear of stigmatisation. That is why we are going to start a mobile humanitarian response to GBV victims in rural villages," she said.
She added that efforts are underway to educate the public across the county on gender-based violence in a bid to minimise cases and create effective community-based responses.