Peggy Namadi, the Coast Regional Coordinator Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children (KAAC) has called on the government to ease the burden of parents during the coronavirus pandemic by providing girls from poor urban estates and rural areas with sanitary towels.
Speaking to KNA, Ms. Namadi said parents are currently worried about where to find food for their children and often overlook the role of reproductive health threatened by the global corona pandemic.
She said technology may have a role to play in the alarming numbers of early pregnancies but not to blame entirely adding that it is the society’s morals that have decayed.
“We have chosen to feed our evil desires and blame it on technology and other situations adding that situations which include schools closure for long leaving children alone for long lead to vulnerability,” said Namadi.
The regional KAAC Coordinator observed that adults were taking advantage of children who may be lacking basic needs due to either parents having no income.
She reported during her indulgence with children, they said they were told by some perpetrators “sleep with me and I will give you want you need!”, she exclaimed.
Besides food, things like sanitary towels are essential for girls since while in school children would be given as provided by government and other donors, but now schools are closed, they cannot access these towels.
Parents are focusing on food and hence the girl has to look for these towels on her own.
Technology maybe blamed, but how many of our children have smart phones, computers or TVs, how many even have electricity in their homes to access technology.
From the statistics given by the ministry of health, the numbers of pregnancies are high and I don’t think all these are from urban centers.
The KAAC Coast Coordinator cited other issues contributing to teenage pregnancies, include rising numbers of incest cases being experienced in the communities, saying children are locked in their homes with relatives who have ill motives where they release their frustrations on children using threats.
A phenomenon that is on the rise is child to child sexual encounters. Through experiment in the girlfriend/boyfriend space, many girls have become pregnant.
Covid-19 is here with us, parents need to learn to manage their lives and families. This we cannot do without help because many times we are not aware that the stress we have is getting out of hand, observed Ms Namadi.
She called on the government and communities to set up counseling centers and do mental health awareness by training parents on how to handle the situation.
She suggested the committee on Covid-19 needs to set aside funds for this exercise if the worrying teenage pregnancies are to subside including opportunities for safe community dialogue and guidance discussions for children and youth with guidance from the government.
In an interview, the Mombasa Children Officer, Philip Nzenge, confirmed over 15 cases of teenage pregnancies have been reported in Kisauni Sub County alone with numbers expected to rise steadily when all the six sub counties of Mombasa submit their findings.
He said they were forced to rescue some girls after their parents failed to meet their daily demands after being found loitering without masks in search for food.
The Children Officer cited Utange, Vikwatani and Mwakirunge dumpsite in Kisauni as worst affected area where girls are compromised by boys collecting and sorting garbage saying they have started influencing girls who collect their family utensils like sufurias and sell them as scrap metal to dealers.
However, Naila Abdalla, the CEO Sisters for Justice a non-governmental organization based in Kisauni said she had obtained the statistics indicating that 900 cases had been reported in the coast region with only four cases reported in Lamu.
She said the coast region has varied dynamics on teenage pregnancies since the culture and religion allows early marriages which are a contravention of the law for any girl to be married under the age of 18.
Naila foresees an increase in gender based violence and depression of girls following the revelations of the worrying pregnancy statistics calling on parents to be in the frontline to take responsibility for their children.
By Joseph Kamolo