Baby boom a side-effect of poll violence?

The Kenyan population is increasing rapidly in recent months as a pregnancy wave sweeps across the country.

No. This is not a tongue-in-cheek story. It is the result of discussion in offices, bars, salons and roadsides. The fact is that almost every other woman walking the streets and footpaths of Kenya today is … PREGNANT!

Experts say a society that has experienced war, as Kenya did early this year, inevitably sparks off a baby boom. According to scientists, this is an evolutionary adaptation meant to ‘replace’ lives lost during instability.

Conversely, societies that are peaceful record low birth rates. In this sense, Europe and Japan come to mind. At the extreme, you have countries in Eastern Europe including Russia where birth rates are so low that the overall population is in steady decline.

In January 2008, most people were confined to their homes due to raging violence between police and protestors and between ethnic groups. It is generally thought that forceful confinement to the home was conducive to baby-making. People simply had nothing else to do!

Since the month of August, a sharp increase in births has been recorded in most hospitals compared to a similar period last year. But how do you explain the continued high birth rate and new pregnancies?

The signing of the Grand Coalition Cabinet in April 2008 brought a sense of relief to the entire country. Just when things were bad, peace was restored. Kenyans celebrated the New Year in April because January 1st was the beginning of the chaos. The sense of elation was so high that some people took leave from work and went on holiday. It goes without saying that innumerable babies were conceived during that month.

On a sobering note, thousands of women were raped during the orgy of ethnic cleansing. Those who fled into IDP camps were coerced into sex by aid workers. The unspoken reality is that many of these women became pregnant and will suffer the lifetime trauma of raising babies from the experience.

Abortion is illegal in Kenya even for victims of rape. Apart from the legal aspects of abortion, majority of Kenyans are religious in character, making abortion a sin equated to murder. That is not to say that illegal abortions do not occur but many women probably are scared of it.

Another explanation for the conspicuous pregnancies in the country is simply social momentum. Human beings copy what others are doing and if people notice their friends and relatives expecting babies, they are likely to want a baby as well. Therefore, the current baby boom will persist for months to come.

There’s another factor that explains the pregnancies. It should be recalled that between 1975 and 1990, Kenya had the highest fertility rate in the world. Most families during that time had at least 5 children.

The question is: what happened to all those children? Well, the children of the 1980s are today’s young adults and they are starting their own families! So, you have this huge pool of people born in the 70s and 80s who are now having babies.

Should we expect another baby boom in 25 years? Probably so!


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