What you need to know:
- The 2021 Economic Survey which captured the number of pregnant girls through the first antenatal care clinic visits, shows more adolescents were impregnated in 2019, than last year.
- Anti-teen pregnancy campaigners argue that more than 30 per cent of the cases may have not been captured as the adolescents shy away from hospitals due to shame and stigma.
- Some girls who got pregnant in the past year procured abortion through traditional herbalists.
More than 330,000 adolescents aged 10-19 years got pregnant in 2020, a year during when learners stayed out of school for close to 10 months.
The 2021 Economic Survey released last week and which captured the number of pregnant girls through the first antenatal care (ANC) clinic visits, shows more adolescents were impregnated in 2019, than last year.
The report by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows a total of 396,929 girls were pregnant in 2019. In 2020, the number dropped to 332,208, a figure anti-teenage pregnancy campaigners say does not reflect the reality on the ground.
The past five years saw 2018 as the worst with 427,297 girls becoming child parents.
Shame and stigma
Of concern though, is that since 2016 when 275,633 cases were reported, the numbers increased steadily and have never dropped since.
They rose to 339,676 in the following year before hitting more than 400,000 in 2018. Then in 2019, they dropped by 30,368.
The campaigners argue that more than 30 per cent of the teenage pregnancy cases may have not been captured as the adolescents shy away from the hospitals due to shame and stigma.
Apart from child marriages, girls fall pregnant through incest, a sexual assault that leaves them with lifetime emotional wounds and destroys their self-esteem.
Based on data from the national gender-based violence hotline, 1195, fathers commit 37 per cent of the incest, primarily attacking the girls at home.
Evarlyne Ketukei, a community health worker in Kajiado County says out of 100 pregnant girls, only 70 go for the ANC visits.
“They deliver at home and only come to hospital when there is a complication or for immunisation,” she says.
Emmanuel Kiprotich, who advocates for gender equality in Narok County under the umbrella body International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, says closure of churches, which were avenues of raising awareness, complicated the taming of teen pregnancies.
“Everywhere you turn, you will see a pregnant girl. That wasn’t the case in 2019. The numbers must be higher than 2020. For instance, my neighbour’s two daughters, both in high school got pregnant,” he says.
“Sadly, most parents don’t care to take them to hospital for the check-up. They leave them to manage their pregnancies on their own,” he adds.
He suggests the need to empower parents to teach their sons and daughters about sex.
Stellar Seurey, a youth Anti-FGM crusader in Bomet County says some girls who got pregnant in the past year procured abortion through traditional herbalists.
“Many of the girls who dropped out school last year were introduced to prostitution and if they got pregnant, they sought the services of traditional herbalists to terminate the pregnancies,” she says.