Teenage pregnant girl in her third trimester. (Image: WHO)
Insufficient funding, disruption of reproductive and sexual health services especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are some of the main reasons that have contributed to the rise in teenage pregnancies in Kenya.
According to reproductive health experts, adolescent girls and young women experience considerable challenges in accessing essential healthcare services and this is further worsened by crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This emerged during a webinar hosted by the Council of Governors, under the theme, ‘From policy and evidence to action: Counties perspective on teenage pregnancies in Kenya.”
Professor Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health East Africa at Aga Khan University’s Medical College said that in order to protect our young girls from unplanned pregnancies, urgent and effective interventions need to be put in place to address the real drivers of teenage pregnancies across the country.
"Unintended teenage pregnancies are a major challenge for the socio-economic development of adolescent girls because they deny them the opportunity to further their education, aspirations and future potential in life. (Have the attribution here. Importantly, empowered women are more likely to have healthier families, improved economic and social status, which in the long-run, has a profound impact on the health status and economy of a country,” said Prof Marleen.
A report prepared by Population Council and Women Deliver, during the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, presents findings from one of the first multi-country analyses to examine the short- and long-term impacts of having a child before 18 on employment and monetary compensation.
The report presents an analysis of data representing more than 600 million women, ages 20 to 49, from 43 low-and middle-income countries found that women who have a child before the age of 18 are set back economically throughout their lives and have a higher risk of poor pregnancy outcome for the mother and baby.
"These findings demonstrate that when a woman gives birth before the age of 18, her economic and financial options become more limited throughout her lifetime, and maybe unable to break the cycle of poverty,” added Prof Marleen.
According to The Conversation Africa article published in 2018, teenage pregnancy and motherhood rates stand at 18%. About one in every five adolescent girls (aged 15-19) has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Rates increase with age, from 3% among girls at 15 years old, to 40% among girls at 19 years.
Some of the key recommendations highlighted towards supporting adolescent and young people to prevent unplanned pregnancy and develop healthy relationships include; training on relationships and sexual health for health and non-health professionals, advice and access to contraception in non-health education and youth setting and creating adolescent-friendly spaces in primary health centers.
In addition, encouraging parents to discuss relationships and sexual health with the adolescent, support for pregnant teenagers and young parents including prevention of subsequent pregnancies, relationships and sex education in schools and colleges, promoting youth friendly contraceptives and sexual health services are key interventions that can help prevent teenage pregnancies.
H.E. Susan Kikwai, Deputy Governor, Kericho County said: “Stakeholders in government, health and the academia need to work together to develop effective interventions and action plans targeting adolescent and young people that can be adopted and scaled up in order to address the problem of teenage pregnancies at the Counties.”
Organised by the County of Governors, the Communities of Practice (COPs) are forums for discussing key issues on selected themes, with the aim of providing alternative perspectives that contribute solutions to existing issues, challenges and dilemmas that affect young people, institutions, sectors and the society.
Through the months of June to August, the Council of Governors has scheduled six COPs to generate ideas and solutions for addressing emerging issues that affect performance of Counties in executing their devolved functions, and may have been worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.