Kenya: Report On Teen Pregnancies Alarms Kenyans

A survey by the Kenya Health Information System shows that about 4,000 girls aged 19 years and below were reported pregnant in Machakos County between January and May, which means 27 girls conceived every day. The numbers in other counties were equally bad.

The data shows that the numbers peaked in the month of March after schools were closed over Covid-19.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has since dismissed the report, terming it obnoxious, while other Kenyans took to online platforms to express their shock at the mind-boggling numbers.

The reactions forced Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua to clear the air on Twitter on Wednesday as he dismissed the numbers.

"I am shocked by the figures of teenage pregnancies reported. Even though the figures are less because the number of 4,000 represents multiple visits of pregnant girls to hospitals, even a single teenage pregnancy is unacceptable," he wrote.

This, however, did not stop the conversation, as many wondered whether the men responsible will be held accountable. It's also not clear whether the pregnancies are as a result of defilement or boy-girl relationships.

"4,000 teenage pregnancies, in Machakos alone, is the count for reported cases at the time of reporting. There are many more unreported cases, most of which are yet to be ... discovered ... I'm told the snaking queue of long distance trucks in Busia has reached Bumala. We can interpret the snowball effect," wrote Darya Susan on Facebook.

"Teachers play a bigger role in our children's upbringing ... So sad that it had to take Covid for parents to realise this," said Annette Obuya.

A social media survey by the Nation on Thursday on how to curb cases of teen pregnancy saw varied reactions with Twitter user @janeireney suggesting the introduction of contraceptives to teenagers. @NelsonS64803366, suggested that teens should be kept busy to distract them from engaging in sexual acts.

@KamauFr73888054 felt that the society has failed by exposing teens to the Western culture and failing to monitor what they watch on the Internet.

While teen pregnancies have remained a big challenge in the country, notable milestones have been made over the years, but the recent numbers are worrying.

The upward trend has been linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, with authorities expressing fear that the data points to a bigger crisis.

Two weeks ago *Mercy Achieng visited a neighbour and friend in Kibra. "I usually go to his house because he has WiFi, and I am able to easily study," says the 19-year-old college student. The neighbour is a 23-year-old university student.

"While chilling in his house, he offered me a drink, which I later discovered was drugged," narrates Mercy who lives with her aunt and grandmother. When she came to, she was in a lot of pain and discovered she had not only been raped, but also suffered anal attack.

Her aunt noticed that Mercy was walking with a limp. On further prodding, Mercy opened up and was rushed to Coptic Hospital, where tests confirmed the vile acts against her.

The case is still under investigation and the suspect is free. Moreover, the family is unwilling to open up due for fear of stigma.

Still in Kibra, a 47-year-old man was arrested this week after he sexually attacked his seven-year-old neighbour. Neighbours took the boy to hospital and informed the mother. She never followed up the case.

Early this week, the same man raped the young boy's five-year-old sister. Neighbours helped the mother report the matter to the police and a local organisation, who facilitated the man's arrest.

In Kaptembwa, Nakuru County, 14-year-old *Winnie Cherono is seven months pregnant. The Class Seven girl was made pregnant by a neighbour, who is married with two children.

"This man has been my niece's friend since she was 11. I've spoken to the man and his wife, but nothing has changed. It started with the man inviting my niece to babysit his child while his wife was away," says her aunt.

The matter was reported to the police in January. The case has, however, stalled because Winnie's aunt says police asked her to pay Sh200 to process the case; she is unable to raise it. Winnie is expected to give birth in August.

At only 13 years of age, *Fatma, who comes from a humble background and is from the Coast, is almost due with her first child.

She confesses that she had a sexual relationship with the man responsible, who happens to be her neighbour, in the months of September and October 2019. Relations between them have, however, soured since she became pregnant. The young man who comes from a wealthy family told her to abort, but she did not.

Efforts by Fatma's parents to get justice for their first-born have proved futile as the offender was able to bribe the police and is roaming freely. Worse still, he regularly defiles a different girl in the same neighbourhood.

At 17 years of age, *Felista is a mother to a four-month-old baby. She completed her primary education in 2017, but her mother was unable to take her to secondary school.

With a lot of time on her hands, Felista fell in love with Ali, a 16-year-old neighbour, who did odd jobs for a living. He, too, had been unable to raise school fees for his secondary education.

The two got intimate and Felista became pregnant at 16. When her family knew she was expecting Ali's child, she was married off to him.

But their relationship has been rocky as Ali is violent. Felista, however, hopes she can go back to her parent's home and continue with her education.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of minors.

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