Millions of Kenyan adolescents sunk into sex due to curiosity.
And the government says it’s establishing a legal structure to curb access to raw sexual material by the teenagers. The Ministry of Health promised that a set of policies and regulations to implement them will be out in the next two months.
An estimated 6.5 million children aged between 10 and 20 years, about 58.5 percent of the country’s adolescent population, sunk into sexual activities out of curiosity most likely ebbed from the digital space.
The survey conducted between November and December last year by reproductive health experts further revealed that 38.5 percent, an estimated 4.2 million adolescents are said to have been carried away and found them having sex, which included unprotected encounters.
Prof. Peter Gichangi, the Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA) principal investigator reinforced the findings noting that most of the adolescents who fell pregnant might not have used any contraceptives.
“Remember 40 percent were sexually active, and out of this number, 60 percent wanted to use a method, meaning 40 percent did not use any method showing that those who fell pregnant were encountering sex for the first time,” Gichangi said yesterday in Nairobi when he unveiled the survey by the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) which assessed the situation in 11 counties.
The counties are; Nairobi, Kilifi, Nandi, Nyamira, Kiambu, Bungoma, Siaya, Kericho, Kitui, Kakamega, and West Pokot.
In the one month survey, 19.1 percent, about 2.1 million were influenced by their peers, while 15.9 percent being 1.7 million, were forced into sexual activities a similar percentage found out to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In view of this Gichangi argues that the knowledge about these vices is available but to deal with them certain barriers require concerted efforts.
“The knowledge is there but the barriers that exist such as lack of youth friendly services and culture among others which contribute to young women becoming pregnant, calls for a national dialogue to deal with it,” he said.
According to the national census, 2019, there are 11,631,929 adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years in the country, about 24.5 per cent of the population.
The Study found out that 4 in 10 adolescents have ever had sex, where 64 percent used a method to prevent pregnancy. During the same duration, 6 in 10 adolescents were equally willing to have first sex.
“An estimated 1.9 percent of the adolescents are currently pregnant with 13.4 percent having had a child and 17.5 years being the median age at first sex,” the survey indicated.
The PMA Kenya results from Phase 3 panel survey revealed that 12 percent of adolescents have ever given birth, while 4 percent were married or living with a man.
“5 in 10 adolescents are embarrassed or feel too shy to get Family Planning from a clinic or pharmacy and 8 in 10 women between 20 and 24 years are not embarrassed to procure the contraceptives,” the survey further revealed.
At 22.3 years, the survey reveals that women in this age group start using contraceptives for the first time, while at 22.9 years, they encounter their first marriage, and others give birth at the age of 20.9 years.
However, now, with the startling findings in the public domain, the Ministry of Health has formulated policies and guidelines to implement them in order to curb these vices.
Dr. Stephen Kaliti, the head, Reproductive and Maternal Health Division at the Ministry said the policies will be unveiled in the next two months. He said that if not well regulated and moderated the digital access to the adolescents can be both an opportunity and a vice.
“We have an ongoing national dialogue and are developing a policy that’s going to address issues of teenage pregnancy. Before the end of a month or two, we are going to have a secure platform addressing these vices,” Kaliti said.
As a father of young women, Kaliti said the children share what they see on the internet, and called for parents to sit down with their children and have a candid discussion about all these issues.
“Daddy it is true because it is on the internet. This shows that social media is powerful and we must come in strongly as parents and give an alternative voice to the internet lies, where fictional characters are having a field day,” he added.
Some of the guidelines, he said, are at the policy level; others are at the operational stage, but will require a sober concerted dialogue to facilitate implementation.
However, even as there is debate on whether adolescents or children should be given contraceptives, Kaliti said unless it’s through the consent of a parent and strictly if there is need, in the government space, this is illegal.
The study further found out that 61 percent of women in marriage used a modern contraception method, whereas 4 percent of married women having used a traditional method; 14 percent of this cohort, are having unmet need for limiting and spacing.
The rampant stock out of some of the long term methods of contraceptives is also a concern attributable to the unintended pregnancies among married women.
The study found out that 84 percent of the stock outs were due to orders made but not received, while 6 percent of the public health facilities did not place an order for shipment.
“Two in ten facilities ran out of stocks due to unexpected increases in consumption,” the study revealed.
An estimated 62 percent of the facilities trained on implant use nationally, while 75 percent of women received a method from a public service delivery point.
Only 57 percent of women received comprehensive contraceptive counselling, the study added.
On a positive note though, 8 out of 10 married women’s contraceptive demand is satisfied by a modern method.
It also emerged that modern methods of contraception are popular across all economic groups.
The study found out that 43 of women did not receive comprehensive information when receiving FP services, while 57 percent of women received comprehensive information when receiving FP services.