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Giving Compass' Take:
• After three months of COVID-19 lockdown, there was a 40 percent monthly increase in teen pregnancies in Kenya.
• What are some underlying reasons for this increase, and how can health officials mitigate risks?
• Learn about the community-led solutions happening in Kenya to tackle COVID-19.
Over a period of three months in lockdown due to COVID-19, 152,000 Kenyan teenage girls became pregnant — a 40% increase in the country's monthly average. These numbers, from early July, are some of the earliest pieces of evidence linking the COVID-19 pandemic to unintended pregnancies.
Public health officials and women’s rights advocates worry that the ongoing pandemic is delaying an adequate response to a growing sexual reproductive health crisis.
One survey conducted by the Kenya Health Information System found that 3,964 girls under the age of 19 were pregnant in Machakos County alone.
And new data from the International Rescue Committee found that girls living in refugee camps have been particularly affected.
While only eight cases of teenage pregnancy were reported in June 2019 at Kakuma refugee camp in the northwest of the country, 62 pregnancies were recorded in June 2020. At Dadaab refugee camp, there was a 28% increase in reported teenage pregnancies during the April-June period, compared to the same period last year.
When Kenya introduced strict preventive measures to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus in April — including restricting movement and closing schools — accessing sexual and reproductive health services became much harder.
Dr. Manisha Kumar, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) task force on safe abortion care, recently spoke about how the pandemic is affecting sexual reproductive health during an online press conference.
"During the pandemic, a lot of resources got pulled away from a lot of routine services and care, and those services were redirected to coronavirus response," Kumar said.
Because hospitals and health care facilities are focusing primarily on the threat posed by COVID-19, there are often not enough resources or personnel to continue to offer reproductive health care.
Read the full article about teenage pregnancies by Sophie Partridge-Hicks at Global Citizen.