Kilifi pregnancy crisis deepens, numbers rise as parents, leaders wring their hands

Gender executive Maureen Mwangovya in her office on February 18 / ELIAS YAA
Gender executive Maureen Mwangovya in her office on February 18 / ELIAS YAA

At least 17,850 girls were pregnant in Kilifi last year. These are the latest figures released by Gender executive Maureen Mwangovya on Friday.

Teen pregnancies continue to bedevil the county. A resident blamed poverty and said economic empowerment is the solution. A task force formed by Governor Amason Kingi to look into the crisis has not begun its work.

“These are statistics from our health facilities and they were recorded up to December. This means the number has since risen,” Mwangovya said.

“By September, 13,000 girls were pregnant. In the three months up to December, 4,850 girls were impregnated. This is alarming.”

Mwangovya blamed parents for failing in their responsibilities. She said many parents do not take care of their daughters and that’s the major cause of the problem.

“Parents are supposed to know where their children are. After school, they should go back home. When they are sent somewhere, the parents should know where they are,” she said.

“Unfortunately, parental responsibility is weak and that’s why a daughter can go out and come back at 8pm and the parent will keep quiet. If the daughter comes with a packet of flour, the parents will take the flour and ask nothing.”

Also blamed for the rising teen pregnancies are peer pressure and backward cultural practices. Mwangovya said many parents allow their children to attend weddings and funerals without proper monitoring.

“In these funerals and weddings, many things happen during the night. With young girls left to loiter around, men find a hunting ground for girls,” she said.

During such functions, some girls take alcohol and other drugs through the influence of their peers and this makes them vulnerable to sex pets who throng the functions, the executive added.

Kilifi University and College Students’ Association chairman Jacobs Fikirini blamed poverty for the crisis. He urged the government to empower the community if it is serious about finding a lasting solution.

“Poverty has a direct bearing on all the factors attributed to early pregnancies. If you blame boda boda riders, you’ll realise they’re in that business to make ends meet. Most of them are youths who didn’t make it to high school for lack of fees or other poverty-related issues,” he said.

Fikirini said most girls can’t afford sanitary towels and other essentials and when “they get someone with a promise to make their lives better, they do whatever the person says”.

According to the statistics, most cases are from the rural areas. Fikirini said this reflects the poverty gap between urbanites and rural dwellers. He said poverty is rife in rural areas. “Let the government come up with programmes that will make the lives of these people better to reduce these cases. We are losing a whole generation and the vicious cycle of poverty will forever be with us.”

Health chief officer Bilal Mazoya said many girls get pregnant because they do not use contraceptives.

“The commonly used contraceptive among the adolescent is the condom, at 40 per cent. This is still far too low. A good number of the teens who are pregnant are aged 10-14. This is a very tender age to carry a pregnancy,” Bilal said.

But youth leader Birya Menza warned against distribution of condoms to teens. He said the teens will be eager to experiment.

“If you give these kids condoms, you’ll have given them a licence to indulge in early sex. This would show the government has given up and wants to give them the greenlight to do what they want,” Menza said.

A taskforce formed by Kingi in September last year is yet to make progress. Its members were drawn from the Education, Health and Gender departments.

“We’ll have our first meeting on Thursday so we plan on how to go about the menace. We’re in the process of coming up with policies that will guide us. One of them is the Gender-Based Violence Bill, which we’ll soon take to the county assembly,” Mwangovya said.

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