Seven out of every 20 pregnant women in Kitui county are underage girls. The disclosure by Afya Halisi, a United States Agency for International Development (USAid) child programme in the county says out of 20 pregnant women who deliver at the county referral hospital, seven are girls under 18 years either in secondary or primary school.
The revelation comes soon after education officials in the county revealed that 113 girls sitting this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam either delivered while writing the papers or were expectant.
A stakeholders’ forum convened at a Kitui hotel over the high rate of early child pregnancies and attended by representatives from Afya Halisi, Jhpiego, Family Planning, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, youth and county government was alarmed by early child pregnancies and called for a lasting solution.
“There is a problem with the teenage girls and the emerging vice is putting the family institution into disarray,’’ said Afya Halisi Kitui County Project Technical Adviser Peter Mutanda.
He said there is a need for collective responsibility to see what can be done as a family, community and as leaders to prevent early pregnancies in the county as the vice not only impacts negatively on the development of girls but have also far-reaching consequences on their education progression.
“We are currently focusing on primary prevention and supporting adolescent issues but more needs to be done before things get worse,’’ said Mutanda.
He said teachers need to come out strongly and discuss with girls on early pregnancies with a view to coming up with solutions. Kitui County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti said the early pregnancies have become a national issue, hence need for leaders to devise ways of tackling the problem. “Teachers should be part of the solution to the problem that is affecting girls today; don’t be part of the problem,” he said.
The administrator said adults found impregnating girls should get stiff penalties in court to serve as a warning to others. “When a young girl is impregnated, her health is affected as well as the health of the child, hence the need for devising ways of preventing girls from falling prey to the vice,” he said.
Kitui Deputy Governor Dr Wathe Nzau attributed high levels of teenage pregnancies in the county to poverty, adding that counties with high teenage pregnancies are poor.
As we seek solutions to early pregnancies of our girls, high levels of poverty in the households of the affected counties is an underlining factor that also needs to be addressed’’, said Nzau.
Ruth Kilonzo, who had represented the Kitui County Health Director, Dr Allan Owino, said the county referral hospital is grappling with many under-age girls visiting the facility to deliver.’’ Our maternity ward is jammed with girls as mothers,” said Ms Kilonzo.