Forgotten Covid-19 pregnant teens
After the media reports on the high rate of adolescent pregnancies that spiked due to COVID-19-related containment measures, little is known over the fate of these young mothers.
As part of the containment measures, the Kenyan Government shut all schools from March 2020 until January 2021 countrywide, disrupting education for millions of students, a move that partly contributed to a spike in teen pregnancies.
When Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET) went to Kisii towns of Eberege, Nduru, Suguta and Etago, they met overwhelming numbers of teen mothers, who had dropped out of school struggling to take care of their children and at high risk of contracting a second pregnancy due to lack of family planning services.
The Agha Khan Foundation Covid-19 project saw KMET forced to accommodate huge number of teenage mothers in initiatives to train them on financial inclusion, access to health services and help them establish links with medical staff.
“The project had targeted to reach 45 teenage mothers grouped into three. However, due to the high demand and number eligible, six groups were formed in January and February having a total of 128 (Suguta 15, Etago 50 and Nduru 63) teenage mothers,” KMET said.
During the sessions, the teenage mothers reported that they get pregnant at an early age because of -unwelcoming parents – prompting the adolescent to look for a boyfriend for provision.
Others find themselves having sex just because their peers are doing the same while for others it is because they found themselves alone at home.
“There are also economic pressures – when parents don’t provide all the needs which sometimes may lead to self-reliance; failed parental care, most of the young girls stay with their young grandmothers because their mothers have gone to a neighbouring county to work. They get impregnated by their peers, teachers, boda-boda riders, and even relatives (fathers, cousins, brothers),” said Deborah Otambo a project officer at KMET.
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To help these young mothers, the Agha Khan Foundation Covid-19 project sought through KMET to map out the cases of teenage pregnancies and develop sustainable interventions to help the young mothers.
The mothers were trained on table banking, helped to organize themselves into support groups that acted both as an economic safety net but also a crucial support network for consultations on bringing up their children.
The projects reached a total of 2,994 beneficiaries with health services including cervical cancer screening and treatment, prostrate cancer and breast cancer screening, as well as HPV vaccination drive.
It also helped drive Covid-19 vaccination, immunization, non-communicable diseases screening, treatment of minor ailment and referrals, HIV testing and screening, lab services, child welfare clinics and service provision as well as information about the pandemic.
The outreaches were conducted to support the vulnerable communities to access services within their reach especially the teenage mothers who were able to get family planning information and services for the first time.
The project was more impactful given KMET managed to link the young mothers to health facilities in Kenyenya, Tongeri, Eberege and Magena in Bomachoge Borabu and Nduru, Etago and Suguta in South Mugirango.
Through the partnership with the health centres, the project also managed to encourage community feedback to improve services at the facilities by polling officials and the teenage mothers on the state of hospitals.
The forums enabled community members to give their opinions, score, and give reasons for the scores concerning 6 key areas that included: Human Resource; Service Provision; Maternal Neaonatal and Child Health; Commodity Security, Supplies and Infrastructure; Referral System and Governance and Management.