As the world struggles to combat and curtail the spread of the novel Coronavirus, Kenya is overwhelmed with a surge in teenage pregnancies. During three months of lockdown, 152,000 Kenyan teenage girls became pregnant, a 40 per cent increase in the monthly average, according to VOA.
According to officials in Kenya, there has been a significant rise in teenage pregnancies, especially since the start of Covid-19 restrictions in March. Data released by the health ministry show that in just one county about 4,000 teenage girls have become pregnant since the start of the year.
As part of safety measures announced by the government, schools were closed nationwide in mid-March. The authorities fear that close relatives of the underage girls could be responsible for their pregnancies.
Tabitha Mukoya, a 45-year-old woman, who lives in a remote village of Machakos County in Kenya told VOA she recently discovered that her teenage daughter was pregnant after she noticed her wearing a sweater for many days.
Her teenage daughter is one of the over 150,000 teenagers who have gotten pregnant. Officials say some of the girls are aged 14 and below. “How can a 12-year-old girl become a mother?” Machakos Children’s Officer, Salome Muthama, said. Kenya reportedly has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world, making up 82 out of 1,000 births.
Similarly, In Douala, Cameroon the worsening economy and the closure of schools has forced many young women — already trying to recover from being displaced — to turn to s*x work to make ends meet, or made them vulnerable to exploitative men. This has led to a surge in teenage pregnancies, according to the Rahel Randy Foundation, which focuses on uplifting underprivileged and orphaned girls.
Ten of the 50 young women they work with have become pregnant during the pandemic. Of these, most do not have access to maternal healthcare, and suffer from familial stigma. “Most parents fear to open up on or report these cases,” said Rahel Randy, the head of the foundation. “This ends up affecting the girl child negatively. Many times, they drop out of school, and some end up as single child mothers who head families.” According to the United Nations Children’s Agency, maternal mortality in Cameroon is among the highest in the world at 596 deaths per 100 000 births.