Half of Samburu County children are born to teenage mothers

The alarming rate of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in  Samburu County is a growing concern. At least 50 per cent of children in here are born to teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 19.

Photo credit: Jesse Chenge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Samburu County is facing a critical social crisis as recent data reveals that at least 50 per cent of children are born to teenage mothers aged 15-19.
  • This alarming trend, attributed largely to negative cultural practices, is part of a broader "triple threat".
  • Stakeholders are mobilising to combat these issues through awareness campaigns, engagement with community elders, and international partnerships.

At least 50 per cent of children in Samburu County are born to teenage mothers aged 15-19 according to data revealed during a population stakeholders' forum in Maralal town.

Janet Lunyao, the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) South Rift Region coordinator, described this trend as worrying and emphasised the need for stakeholder collaboration to reverse it.

While teen births have been declining nationally, Samburu County has seen an increase.

The 2019 Census reported a population of about 65,425 youths aged 15-24 years in the county. Janet stressed that teenage pregnancies infringe on girls' fundamental right to education.

To address this issue, “the NCPD, in partnership with National Government Administration Officers (NGAO) and other entities, is running a campaign targeting the "triple threat" of teenage pregnancy, HIV, and gender-based violence (GBV). Lunyao explained that teenage pregnancies in Samburu County may lead to new HIV infections and early marriages, potentially resulting in GBV,”Janet said.

The 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey ranked Samburu, West Pokot, and Marsabit as the counties with the highest rates of teen pregnancies. Samburu led at 50 per cent, followed by West Pokot at 36 per cent and Marsabit at 29 per cent. The report also revealed that Samburu girls lose their virginity at an average age of 15.6 years.

These high rates of teenage pregnancies in Samburu County are largely attributed to negative cultural practices.

In this pastoral society, girls face intense pressure to marry and bear children early. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages, and gender-based violence are widespread across the devolved unit.

To combat these issues, the government has sought to engage Samburu elders as ambassadors in the fight against gender violence. Multiple declarations and agreements have been signed, with elders committing to abolish gender violence against girls and women in the region.

Recently, Kenya and Finland signed a bilateral program to involve Samburu in the fight against retrogressive practices. This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) incorporates various stakeholders, including local leaders, religious leaders, and elders, in efforts to eradicate GBV and other harmful cultural practices.

The United Nations defines gender-based violence as acts that inflict physical, sexual, or mental harm, as well as other forms of suffering, coercion, and limits on personal freedoms.

GBV has long-term consequences on the sexual, physical, and psychological health of survivors. In Samburu County, violence against women and girls remains one of the most prevalent human rights violations, perpetrated through early marriages, FGM, and other forms of exploitation.