Medical experts in Migori County have raised the alarm over the high adolescent pregnancy rates in the region that is negatively affecting the lives of the youth in all spheres of development.
In 2019, the region recorded 15,000 unwanted pregnancies among the youth, the majority of them schoolgoing teenagers.
According to Dr. Maurice Owino, this could be the highest number of adolescent pregnancies that has ever been registered from a single region in Kenya since independence.
“This could be an indicator of a decaying society or a society that has decided to despair completely on all the matters that are crucial to inculcating good morals in the youth for their better lives,” said Dr. Owino during a recent forum of the county stakeholders on issues affecting the population in the region.
The forum that drew participants from various government departments, religious leaders, and other private entities was to find ways and means of integrating population issues into development planning.
Dr. Owino said the massive number of unwanted pregnancies recorded last year means the negative effects had percolated to all the crucial nerves driving the youths’ lives including their health.
Apart from impacting negatively on their health, early births had also plunged the affected girls into unplanned marriages and child labour as the young mothers search for odd jobs to survive.
Statistics from Migori County Family Planning Strategic Plan report indicate that girls in the region begin to bear children at the age of 15-19. This is 24 percent of the total number of girls aged in that bracket and the highest compared to the national rate which stands at 18 percent.
The report attributes this trend partly to the low use of contraceptives among the adolescent which stands at only 17 per cent in the region.
“We are in the era where a single health mistake will attract serious medical and economic complications to our youth and we better change now if we have to give our children a better life,” added Dr Owino.
He says the youth life must be addressed through multifaceted approaches that include comprehensive medical and spiritual undertakings.
In this case, the adolescent must be embraced in all health measures to rid them of the risks of contracting dangerous diseases like HIV and Aids, while at the same time committing them seriously to bible scriptures to offer them spiritual nourishment with a view of helping them live an upright life, he added.
The report of the largest adolescent pregnancy has not only sent fears among the health experts but also to the education officials who are now concerned about the school dropout rate that is also sky-rocketing in the region by the day.
“Transition to secondary education is 52 per cent with a completion rate of 69.7 per cent. Around 49 percent of children aged 5-14 years old in the region are, unfortunately, engaged in child labour,” says Dr. Owino.
He further explains that Migori has a youthful population with people below age 15 recording 49 percent of the total population. This is mainly attributed to high teenage deliveries.
The youthful population, he declares, has implications on the county’s health and development agenda as it puts increasing demands on the provision of services including health and education.
One of the main areas of concern to health experts is sexual and reproductive health of the adolescent and the extent to which their needs are met.
“With a total fertility rate of 5.3 per cent against the National’s 3.8 per cent, it is paramount that Migori leaders campaign seriously on the platform of checking the adolescent reproductive health,” says the medic.
“The devolved government must seriously focus on areas that the family planning issues can be integrated and more funds allocated to implement the same,” Dr. Owino recommends, noting that a population that controls birth enables women and families to plan their births and have more time and resources to invest in their children’s health and education.
Summarily, he points out that by investing in family planning and accelerating service provision on the same, the Migori County workforce will be healthier and contribute more to the economy both at the county and national levels.