800 teens seek pregnancy care in Pokot every month – report
A non-governmental organisation has raised the alarm about the high rate of teenage pregnancies in West Pokot county.
Kenya District Health Information System (KDIS) data, revealed by the Declares Kenya, a community-based organisation, shows that at least 800 teenage girls in the county visited health centres for antenatal care services every month.
“Teenage pregnancy has become a serious problem in the county. This is a pastoral community where issues of sexuality are not discussed openly,” said Declares Kenya director Jefferson Mudaki.
Speaking to People Daily in Kapenguria Town on Sunday, Mudaki said eight girls in the county gave birth in hospitals while sitting the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.
He asked education stakeholders in the region to put more focus on curbing pregnancies, adding that three out of 10 teenage girls in the county have either had their first child or are pregnant with their first born.
“West Pokot County is among the top three counties in the country in teenage pregnancies at 29 per cent,’’ he said.
Mudaki said despite efforts by stakeholders in education and child protection sectors to find a solution to the problem, many schoolgirls were still victims of early pregnancy.
The Declares Kenya director said Covid-19 was a big contributor to the large number of pregnancies, most of which occurred after schools were closed for seven months.
Mudaki also pointed out that West Pokot County had a low uptake of contraceptives because of outdated traditional beliefs. He accused some leaders of misleading residents to give birth to more children for political reasons.
“When women and girls have access to contraception, everybody wins: fewer girls drop out of school, fewer mothers die giving birth and more young women enter the workforce.
Multiply that by millions, and it becomes clear why contraception is one of the smartest investments countries can make,” Mudaki.
World Vision Girl Child Protection Officer Teresa Cheptoo, who is also an anti-female genital mutilation champion in the county, said night parties, ceremonies and prayers contributed to teenage pregnancies.
She called on the national and county governments to invest in family planning and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
She said there was need to set up safer houses for girls. West Pokot Reproduction Health Coordinator Wilson Ngareng said more resources should be allocated to programmes that deal with reproductive issues.
“Teenage pregnancies are high due to cultural practices. If the trend continues we will not have tomorrow leader’s .We need to invest in adolescents,” he said.