Gender experts now want teenage pregnancies declared a national disaster.
This follows a spike in number of girls reportedly impregnated during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
During a webinar on ‘Counties perspective on teenage pregnancies’ hosted by the Council of Governors, the experts said the matter is becoming unbearable considering that the pandemic has led to disruption of reproductive health programs.
Kericho deputy governor Susan Kikwa said the more than 100 delegates across the 47 counties linked adolescent pregnancies to poor parenting and poverty.
Ms Kikwai, who chaired the meeting on behalf of her governor Mr Paul Chepkwony, said insufficient funding for reproductive health services and lack of a comprehensive sex education has contributed to rise in teenage pregnancies.
“Teenage pregnancies can be curbed if proper legislation is done and follow up made,” she said.
Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women, Child and Adolescent Health at Aga Khan University, Prof Maleern Temmerman, said community support is key in the development of teenagers.
She noted that even though a comprehensive national data on the impact of Covid-19 on teen pregnancy rates are not yet available, indications are that cases of teenage pregnancies have gone up.
Prof Temmerman added that early pregnancies have major health consequences for adolescent mothers and their babies.
“Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of maternal deaths and comprises girls aged between the ages of 15 to 19 years,” she said.
Makueni health executive Dr Andrew Mulwa said counties need to establish out-of-school community health structures that will empower the youth on reproductive health.
ROLE OF TEACHERS
He noted that parents and communities need to take up full responsibility of raising children and not assume the role on teachers.
The experts said there is need for counties to roll out training on peer counsellors at ward levels.
In most cases, children are sexually abused by persons well known to them which subjects them to silence for fear of being reprimanded as well as the presence of their abuser.
During the virtual meeting, the delegates highlighted the most common forms of abuse which include physical and emotional.
Dr Doris Nyokangi, a gender specialist and researcher, warned parents who fail to report or cover up cases of abuse, of dire consequences.
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 12 million girls aged 15 to 19 and at least 700,000 girls under 15 years give birth each year in developing countries.
Another 10 million unintended pregnancies occur each year among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years in the developing world.