BY TITUS ADIKA
Since the emergence of the novel Coronavirus over a year ago, we have seen a significant increase in the number of teen pregnancies being recorded in the whole country.
I am afraid the longer the pandemic lasts the more we normalize what should not be a normal life for teens who are barely even into high school.
Partially due to the strict containment measures, some 175,500 unwanted pregnancy cases were recorded in the whole country by the end of 2020.
Many of these cases that were investigated could be directly traced to the COVID19 containment measures that involved restricted movement, leaving many youths unable to access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services from various health facilities.
Young people reported being unable to access various family planning commodities owing to restricted movement as well as fear of being found out by strict parents.
The phenomenon has revealed telling gaps in terms of the information young people get from their parents about their sexuality and sexual health.
The startling statistics show that parents are either ill equipped with the right information or they are unwilling to avail it to their children. This has inevitably led to parents having to deal with the bigger challenge of their teen getting pregnant before they are ready for the responsibility of child bearing and rearing.
It is even more saddening that with current closure of schools and the third wave of the pandemic at its peak, we might witness a further increase in cases of teen pregnancies in the country.
One unspoken tragedy is that many girls did not sit for their KCPE or KCSE exams this year because they dropped out of school after getting pregnant. They are not celebrating the just released examination results.
Many of the affected young girls in my home county of Migori resorted to early marriages which further subjects them to more harm that good. I personally know of two young girls who could not continue with their Form Two education after being victims of unwanted pregnancy and are about to give birth.
Parents and guardians should be alert and take the initiative of involving their young girls and boys and give them full guidance and information as per the Article35(b) of the Kenyan constitution on sexually related issues.
If parents stop shying off from not wanting to talk about the SRHR issues with their daughters, we will see a considerable reduction in the number of teen pregnancies being recorded in our county of Migori and eventually in the country.
Finally, the government should also consider targeting parents and guardians with programmatic information and solutions about their children’s reproductive healthcare.
This is because many parents do not actually have the right information and we are often quick to blame them for problems that they are also equally concerned about but ill equipped to handle.
Mr Adika is a youth advocate at NAYA Kenya