Fifteen-year-old Brigit (not her real name) sits pensively under a tree, clutching a baby girl.
Her hands appear not strong enough to restrain the baby who is attempting to reach out to any objects nearby.
Brigit looks frustrated, but determined.
I am a Standard Seven pupil at Ogenya Primary SchoolBrigit
You would mistake the baby to be her younger sibling. The baby is hers.
Once in a while, she stands up and moves few steps as she calms the baby who is now wailing out of frustrations from Brigit’s restriction of her attempted movement.
This has been Brigit’s routine for the past one and a half year.
“I am a Standard Seven pupil at Ogenya Primary School,” she says as part of the introduction as we begin to engage her.
Brigit is one of the many teenage mothers in the village which has been ravaged by floods for the past five years.
Brigit, the last born in a family of six siblings lives with her parents at a rescue camp at Bur Lowo in Kambata village, Kadibo, Kisumu County.
The family moved here in 2019 when their homes were washed away at Ogenya village following the swelling of Lake Victoria water levels.
The area is still submerged, and according to Kenya Red Cross, at least 600 families are still living in temporary camps as their homes are still under water.
After a short chat with Brigit, she accepts to join us together with seven other teen mothers from the village at Gogni market where another 20 families are living in tents after being displaced by the floods.
At this camp, there are three other teenage mothers who delivered between 2019 and 2022.
Brigit’s mum says when they were displaced, her family was issued with one tent by Kenya Red Cross.
The tent could not accommodate all the family members, hence they sought help from neighbours to provide the children with somewhere to sleep.
“Apart from being too small, the tents were also too cold at night and not conducive for children,” she says.
Exposed to pregnancies
So during the day, the children would spend time at the camp or in school, but at night they would move to a nearby house to sleep together with other children.
According to Brigit, this was the beginning of her predicaments.
It was during this time that she met a man who introduced her to sexual behaviours.
“Once in a while he would pick me while on my way to where we sleep, and then we would proceed to his place and we would have sex,” she said.
It was not long before Brigit discovered that she was pregnant, delivering a baby girl in July, 2021.
Once in a while he would pick me while on my way to where we sleep, and then we would proceed to his placeBrigit
“He (the perpetrator) comes from Awasi, but he was a fisherman in the nearby beach,” she said.
Macrine (not her real name) sat her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations last year at Ogenya primary School, scoring 256 marks.
Her family was also displaced from Ogenya, in late 2019.
They were hosted in a nearby Legio Mariah Church.
According to Macrine, the church management directed that only parents sleep there and teenagers get alternative places in the village.
“They (church management) were claiming that teenagers could ‘misbehave in the holy place’ if allowed to spend the night there,” she said.
It was here that Macrine joined fellow teenagers at a nearby home.
She got all the freedom to meet the man who made her a mother at 16; a farmer in a nearby rice scheme.
“When I discovered that I was pregnant, I attempted abortion, and my mum discovered and spoke to me,” she said.
Today, her baby is six months old.
Macrine’s statement corroborated with that of her widowed mother who said she could not sit back to watch her daughter risk her life.
“She felt guilty, but I had to assure her that I was there for her,” she said.
“Before we were displaced by the floods, I had a big house, and my daughters had a room where they slept, and I closely monitored them,” she said.
Teen pregnancy perpetrators at large
The case is not different from that of Georgina (also not her real name).
The 19-year-old fourth born in a family of seven siblings is a Form Four student at Ombaka Secondary School, in the neighbouring Nyando Sub County.
She lives with her family at Gogni camp, and sleeps in a neighbouring home as the tent issued to the parents is too small to accommodate her father, mother and the younger siblings.
My son is two years old now. The father to the child comes from Homa Bay County, but we met when he lived around engaged in fishingGeorgina
And just like Macrine, a man took advantage of her due to her predicament.
“My son is two years old now. The father to the child comes from Homa Bay County, but we met when he lived around engaged in fishing,” she says.
The perpetrator moved away after Georgina’s pregnancy was discovered.
For 18-year-old Grace (not her real name), her baby girl is now one year and seven months old.
The first born in a family of five siblings is under the care of her mother after losing her dad about a decade ago.
And when the family was displaced by floods in 2019, they were accommodated at Gogni camp.
“Life became difficult and I could not get some basic needs. This exposed me to men,” she said.
She is a Form Three student at Kanyagwal Secondary School.
Her mother has been taking care of the baby when she goes to school.
“This is additional burden to my life. Apart from struggling to put food on the table, I have to baby sit so that my daughter can go to school,” she said.
Eighteen-year-old Mercy (not her real name) is five months pregnant, and will soon be joining the list of teen mothers.
The Form One student at Kanyagwal Secondary School says her fisherman boyfriend is responsible for the pregnancy.
Just like the others, her family has been living in a camp at Haro village since 2019.
“I also sleep in a neighbour’s home since the tent is too small to accommodate all of us,” said the fourth born in a family of five siblings.
The common denominator in the cases is that no arrests have been made in relations to the teen pregnancies.
Who is to blame?
Both victims and their parents blaming the pregnancies on disruption of their lives by floods which have kept them in camps for over four years.
Mzee Fanuel Akong’o, an elder in the village admits that the displacements are to blame for the increase in cases of teenage pregnancies.
Many of the pregnancy cases we have witnessed are linked to the flood displacements, and it has been a big challenge to us to provide a viable remedyFanuel Akong’o
According to Akong’o, many parents have lost opportunity to closely monitor their children as the children spend nights far from them.
He says with the floods swallowing farms, many area residents have lost their economic power, as farming has been their main source of income.
This, he says exposes their children to transactional sex, which then lead to the teenage pregnancies.
“The rescue tents are too small to accommodate to accommodate an entire family. The tents are also not so conducive for children,” said Akong’o.
He adds: “This therefore means parents have to try to find alternative accommodation for their children out of the camps.”
Akong’o who is a member of the Ogenya Primary School Management Board has provided shelter for some of the flood victims in his home.
“Many of the pregnancy cases we have witnessed are linked to the flood displacements, and it has been a big challenge to us to provide a viable remedy,” he said.
Menace to the authority
Anjeline Were, the Kadibo Deputy County Commissioner admits that teenage pregnancy has become one of the biggest challenges to the flood victims.
She however noted that her office was in the process of mapping out the cases in the entire sub county, as part of planning for an intervention measure.
Towards the national examinations last year, I have four cases that we literally flashed out of homes to take to school to sit examinationsAnjeline Were
Ms Were says she has been involved in flashing out girls from their hideouts to return them to school.
She admits that the flooding and displacement is partly to blame for the teenage pregnancy menace.
“Towards the national examinations last year, I have four cases that we literally flashed out of homes to take to school to sit examinations,” said Were.
She said some of the parents have been protecting the culprits, hence making it difficult to apprehend the perpetrators.
She however says her office is already working on a multiagency strategy aimed at tackling the menace.
Her sentiments were shared by Nyanza Regional Director of Education Nelson Sifuna who said his office would engage that of the children department in the intervention.
“We have limits to what we can do, and other government agencies also have parts to play, for example the children department. So once we complete the mapping, we will have the correct statistics and move with joint intervention,” he said.
Scientific reports indicate that Lake Victoria water levels reported exponential rise between 2019 and 2021.
The data was collected through Global Reservoir and Lake Monitor (G-REALM), a project funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project and the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).
FAS uses such water level measurements to assess irrigation potential and long-term drought conditions around the globe.