Authorities in Taita-Taveta County are alarmed after health records showed the number of teenage pregnancies surging.
Statistics from the County Health Information Management System show that 1,929 teenage girls became pregnant between January and August 2021.
This figure is a worrying rise as compared to the 1,428 pregnancies recorded in the whole of 2020.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with religious leaders and youth groups, County Director of Youth, Sports, Gender, Culture and Social Services Wallace Mwaluma said that deliberate collaboration between various partners is needed in order for campaigns aimed at preventing teen pregnancies to succeed.
Mwaluma called for intervention in raising awareness on puberty, sexual and reproductive health among teenagers.
“Building and sustaining community awareness on adolescent, sexual and reproductive health should be prioritised in the campaign for teen pregnancy prevention,” Mwaluma said.
Other reports show that 1,494 girls aged 15 and 19 years got pregnant between December 2019 to November 2020 with June and July recording the highest figures. This is according to statistics from Taita Taveta Demographic Profile of 2021 by National Council for Population and Development (NCPD).
The surge in teenage pregnancies during this period could be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic with schools having been forced to close as part of the containment measures taken to curb the spread of the virus. Learners stayed out of school for close to 10 months.
Growing socio-economic challenges and lack of proper health care also emerged as major contributing factors to the rise of teenage pregnancies in the County with the attendees warning of the long-term consequences of early teen pregnancies in the County.
Ms Violet Mkamburi, an official with the unit on County Sexual and Gender Based Violence, said the rise of teen pregnancies was worrying. She called for more efforts towards an increase in sexual awareness amongst teens in the region.
Religious leaders attending the meeting urged policymakers and civil organisations to involve them in comprehensive discussions on the issue.
“The involvement of religious leaders in addressing this worrying trend should be considered as a strategic move in this campaign,” Pastor Robert Mwangala of Liberty Christian Church said.
In most cases, early pregnancies disrupt young girls’ schooling and their psychological well-being. This wave of early pregnancies risks creating setbacks in the hard-won progress of girls in the field of education in the County.
The revelations of the spike in teen pregnancies come barely months after the county played host to International Condoms’ Day celebrations at Taita-Taveta University to advocate for safe sex amongst young people.
Oddly, data from the National Council for Population and Development ranks Taita-Taveta County as first in the Coast region in terms of utilisation of family planning and use of contraceptives. Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) for the county stands at 68 per cent. This is higher than the national average of 57.9 per cent.
By Raphew F Mukuyia