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We need to talk about adolescent pregnancies

I saw a post about a school in Kisumu, where in a class of 30 girls who are sitting the KCSE exam, 21 are breastfeeding. In the photo was a queue of girls in uniform with babies on their hips.

As reported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 378,397 girls aged 10 to 19 in Kenya were pregnant between July 2016 and June this year where 28,932 girls were aged 10-14 and 349,465 were aged 15-19. This is horrifying.

These are children having children. They are themselves still developing and considering where the highest numbers of these adolescent pregnancies are happening, for instance

Narok, Homa Bay and Tana River, there are many other socio-economic issues that may act as barriers to the adolescent girls ever reaching their full potential, therefore, exacerbating ill health and poverty.

A girl who is coming from a poor family is less likely to have an adequate, nutritious diet. When this girl gets pregnant, her body is not only not prepared for the pregnancy, but she is also less likely to access the food she requires both for her growth and that of the foetus.

The result is high risk of pregnancy and child bearing complications, including fistula and maternal mortality.

According to UNFPA these complications are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls.

Those who are lucky, according to research, are at higher risk of having poor birth outcomes including giving birth to low birth weight babies who later suffer many health risks such as non-communicable diseases.

This creates a loop of inadequacies including access to education,  therefore, pushing the girl further into poverty. The unfortunate thing is that most of these girls do not choose to be pregnant.

Many factors are responsible, including lack of education and access to sexual reproductive health education and services. Our girls need to be empowered.

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