Photo courtesy of UNFPA Kenya
An acrid smell sweeps past the cold room that hosts two beds in this shack in Bondeni estate.
The bed, a rickety wooden piece that is barely holding dons the space together with another make-shift one all squeezed to fit.
I am welcomed by a group of teenage girls. They are huddled in this space, humans and and their belongings trying to find comfort in what appears to be a competition of sorts.
I notice two of the girls and their fragile looking babies clinging on their breasts.
The babies, aged between 6 and 4 months do not look healthy.
Another girl who looks barely 16 is heavily pregnant. Her eyes wander, deep inside me I wonder what she is looking for. Answers for her predicament?
There is the overwhelming stench of urine in the room. The beddings, if they could speak, they would ask for a wash.
The gaping mud walls act as ventilation. It is not enough. The children wheeze with every breath.
Watching them make an attempt in maneuvering motherhood makes for a sad reality.
Children, now faced with the challenge of nurturing children.
They are part of a bigger problem. Nationally, one in every five girls aged between 15 and 19 years is either pregnant or has already had a child.
Consequently, most of them drop out of school. It is estimated that some 13,000 girls drop out of school annually as a result of teenage pregnancies.
The teenage mothers of Bondeni in Nakuru county exemplify a socio-economic burden that forms a bigger debate of blame and finger pointing that only leaves them more vulnerable.
“This is where we live, we share the rent amongst ourselves but this month we haven’t paid and we might be evacuated any moment”, seventeen year old Lucy (not her real name) tells Afyawatch.
It is not long before ‘Nancy’ knocks. She is also 17 years.
She has left her four month old baby sleeping so as to come and check on Linda, the heavily pregnant girl.
“Baby is four months old now and my husband has gone to work”, Nancy says.
The ‘husband’ we are told is also a teenager. He is seventeen year old ‘bebabeba’ (casual laborer) who at times fails to return home when business is low.
Linda the pregnant girl doesn’t know how many months her pregnancy is.
“I do not know when I will deliver but I will start buying baby’s clothes as soon as I get money. The baby’s father is aware of the pregnancy and he frequently visits although I don’t know what he does for a living”, She says.
Lucy is an easy kind of girl. She is bubbly and shares a lot about her life. Her six month old baby looks malnourished but she maintains the baby has ‘really grown’.
She says that the father to the baby is irresponsible and she has had to look for odd jobs like washing peoples clothes to earn her keep.
“He turned 18, and he recently got an Identification Card, however, I do not know what he does for a living”.
In the neighbouring Flamingo Slum estate, fourteen year old Eunice is taking her lunch. Her two year old sister pleads to have a share of the meal, finally she grabs the entire plate and walks away.
Eunice lives with her mother. She dropped out of school in May due to pregnancy.
“I hadn’t planned to be a mother, I would like to go back to school, to enable me work with Kenya Navy, my dream job”
The area Community Health Worker Rosa Picha says lack of income generating activities often pushes the teenage mothers into prostitution.
According to her, during the day, the minors take care of the babies but at night, they administer ‘Piriton’ pills to keep them asleep.
“We are working close with local administrators to find a solution to curb this,” said Picha.
The rising number of teenage pregnancies has propelled the Ministry of health to initiate a reproductive health program at the Kenya National Library Services, Nakuru branch.
The program, which started in August is targeting teenagers between thirteen and eighteen years.
Nakuru County Reproductive Health Coordinator in the ministry of health Jessica Mungau said lack of reproductive health services among teenagers is contributing to early pregnancies that result into increased cases of school drop-outs.
Mungau said the program at the library is relevant and that it will assist teenagers come up with informed decisions in reproductive and safe sex.
She noted that the program is multi-pronged as it is also tackling the substance abuse.
Most teenagers, she said, are wooed into early sex after taking drugs or alcohol.
in realising that they are pregnant, some of them will opt for backstreet abortions that leave them even more vulnerable. Research indicates that 45% of severe abortion related complications are reported by teenagers.
“Some teenagers are wooed to early sex through use of drugs, this is why it is important to train teenagers on importance of avoiding drugs and substance abuse,” she said.
According to her, she took advantage of the high turnout at the library to introduce the program that is expected to be introduced in schools.
“Education stakeholders have discovered that during holiday and weekends, most learners are idle and that is why we have taken advantage to take them through the program at the library,” she said.
She said failure to access information about reproductive health, majority of teenagers resort to unprotected sex and drug abuse.
“Through interaction with teenagers at the library, we discovered that most parents shy away from sharing information on reproductive health, an issue that highly contribute to unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancies,” she said.
The library in charge Purity Mutoko said at least 50 learners have so far been enrolled for the program that is offered throughout the year.