The prevalence of teen pregnancy in Kenya has stagnated at 18 per cent for the past 11 years implying a persistent social problem that disadvantages girls’ advancement.
A comparative analysis of statistics released by government agencies in 2008 and 2020 show the unchanged status.
The percentage of teenagers who have begun childbearing declined from 23 per cent in the 2003 to 18 per cent in the 2008, as indicated in the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-09.
Since then, however, no drop in prevalence has been recorded according to National Council on Population and Development (NCPD) survey findings that covered 2016-2019.
PROVINCES TO COUNTIES
The levels of 15-19 aged girls becoming teen mothers, which were previously ranked according to the eight provinces, put Nyanza at the top with 27 per cent, Coast at 25.7 per cent and Rift Valley at 16.5 per cent.
Recording lower rates were North Eastern (16.2 per cent), Western (15.1 per cent), Nairobi (13.9 per cent), Eastern (13.5 per cent) and Central (10.1 per cent).
A look at NCPD shows a slow change of things in areas falling within these provinces - now demarcated into counties.
Counties with the highest rates of the teen pregnancies form part of these former defunct provinces.
Rift Valley leads with nine counties that include Narok (40 per cent), which in overall is the leader in the teen pregnancy in the country as at 2019.
Others are West Pokot (29 per cent), Samburu (26 per cent), Bomet (24 per cent) and Trans Nzoia (23 per cent), Uasin Gishu(22 per cent), Kericho (21 per cent), Kajiado (20 per cent) and Turkana(20 per cent).
Nyanza has three; they include Homa Bay with 33 per cent, coming second with the highest prevalence rates nationally. Nyamira (28 per cent) and Migori (24 per cent).
Coast has Tana River at 28 per cent, Kwale (24 per cent) and Kilifi (22 per cent) below-19 girls becoming early mothers.
Worryingly, the circumstances under which these girls are predisposed to this social problem remains constant.
In the 2008-09 survey, the researchers concluded that 24 per cent of teens from poorer households were more likely to have begun childbearing compared to the 16 per cent of those from wealthier households.
More than a decade later, the conclusion strikes a similar cord. Interestingly, the rates for girls in higher socio-economic status decline by six per cent while they rise by two points for those in opposite criteria.
“Twenty six per cent of teenagers in poor households are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy compared to 10 per cent in wealthier households,” reads NCPD’s report.
One of the measures the council recommends to address the challenge is that teen mothers get full support to return to school.
Enforcement of relevant laws and policies such as Sexual offences Act (2006), Children’s Act (2001) and Marriage Act (2014) would also assist in tackling the social problem.