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Early Pregnancies in Kitui County: A Growing Concern

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Kitui has been facing a pressing issue in recent years – a rising number of early pregnancies among its adolescent population. This phenomenon not only threatens the health and future prospects of young girls but also hampers the overall development of the county. In this article, we will delve into the causes and consequences of early pregnancies  in Kitui County and explore potential solutions to address this pressing issue. Between January and February 2022, Kenya recorded a total number of 45,700 early pregnancies among adolescent girls across the country.

Early teenage sexual activities have also led to an increase in new HIV infections among teens in the country. 

In January and February this year, Kenya has recorded 98 new cases of HIV every week among girls aged 10 and 19 years.

This is an improvement compared to more than 343 new HIV cases every week among young girls that were reported in 2015.

The teenage  pregnancy and motherhood rate in Kenya stands at 18%. This implies that about 1 in every 5 teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 years, have either had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child. The rate increases rapidly with age from 3% among girls aged 15, to 40% among girls aged 19. 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. The situation varies by county with some counties being disproportionately affected than the others. This policy brief looks at drivers of teenage pregnancy and motherhood such as lack of education including education on sexual and reproductive health; poverty; early sexual initiation; harmful cultural practices such as child marriages; sexual abuse/violence and barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health services. In addition, recommendations for the government and other stakeholders on how to address the challenge of teenage pregnancy and motherhood and its adverse consequences are given.

Kitui County has recorded an alarming 3, 207 teen pregnancies of ages 10-19 years since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March. Kitui County, like many other regions in Kenya, grapples with a high prevalence of early pregnancies. These pregnancies, which occur among girls aged 19 and below, have far-reaching consequences for both the individual and the community as a whole.

The prevalence of early pregnancies in Kitui County can be attributed to a combination of factors. Firstly, the lack of comprehensive sex education in both schools and communities is a significant contributor. Many young girls in the county have limited knowledge about contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections, and the importance of practicing safe sex. This knowledge gap leaves them vulnerable to unintended pregnancies.

Poverty is another major factor driving early pregnancies in Kitui County. Numerous families in the region struggle to meet their basic needs, pushing some girls into relationships or transactional sex to secure financial support. The economic strain on these families often leads to early pregnancies as a result.

The consequences of early pregnancies are severe and far-reaching. Adolescent girls who become pregnant face significant health risks, including complications during childbirth, a higher risk of maternal mortality, and an increased likelihood of giving birth to low-birth-weight babies.

Economically, teenage mothers face substantial challenges as they struggle to provide for themselves and their children. Often lacking the skills and resources to secure stable employment, they find it particularly challenging to overcome the financial burdens they face.

In addition to these challenges, adolescent mothers frequently encounter social stigma, ostracization, and discrimination within their communities. This social exclusion makes it difficult for them to reintegrate into society and hinders their overall well-being.

Addressing the issue of early pregnancies in Kitui County requires a comprehensive approach that tackles the root causes, including improving access to education and healthcare, addressing poverty, challenging cultural norms, and providing support and opportunities for teenage mothers to rebuild their lives.

Early pregnancies in Kitui County are a pressing issue that requires a multi-faceted approach for resolution. By addressing the root causes of early pregnancies and implementing comprehensive strategies that focus on education, economic empowerment, and healthcare access, Kitui County can work towards a future where its young girls are given the opportunity to lead healthier, more prosperous lives, contributing to the county’s overall development.

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