CALABAR- IMAGES of girls between the ages of eight and 13 years with protruding stomachs, noticeably pregnant, are familiar sights in Calabar and other parts of Cross River State.
Because of their fresh ages, the teenagers with their protuberances look like a joke or people acting a play in a Nursery class. But the images are no film tricks, they are tangible and in fact, a disquieting trend that has turned the state to a caricature of sorts in the comity of states, which attribute such pregnancies to either high rate of promiscuity or an aberration.
Parents embolden children
Antenatal kids are rampant in the Calabar South area, which is densely populated and the poverty ratio is high, making parents either look the other way or actively encourage their children to “source” for incomes to meet the family needs through “runs.”
Some of them are sent by their parents to hawk petty items like sachet water, buns and groundnut and in the process, some “wolves’ entice them with little gifts and have sex with them and before long, they are expectant.
Most of the girls in the red light area in the city, popularly called Atekong Drive, are from that part of the city and it is common to find female primary school kids roaming the streets around the area at night seeking who will engage their services for the night and hand them little stipends.
Those in secondary schools flood Atekong to hook clients that take them for the night or “short time’ and give them “change” as take home.
Why I do ‘runs’- Esther
One of the kids, nine-year-old Esther, tending a seven- month pregnancy, told NDV: “I am from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and live with my mother and five siblings in one room at Akparika Street in Calabar South. I do not go to school because there is no money. Most times, we do not have food to eat or money to buy water, that is why I go out to do ‘runs’ to get money and some people do not like to use condoms, which is why I became pregnant.”
The high rate of these pregnancies is causing grave concern among members of the public who see the scourge of kid pregnancies as a time bomb that will soon create problems in the society, which government will find hard to contain.
Poverty is the cause- Social worker
A social worker, Mr Vincent Ogbor, said often, the parents and the kids are not willing to reveal who made them pregnant for fear that the person will stop supporting the family and in most cases, the person is not even known, so there is no one to arrest and prosecute.
“We have many of these cases both in the villages and in the urban areas across the state and what is driving the scourge is poverty and ignorance.
Many people have children they cannot fend for, so they send the girl child to go out and look for what the family will eat or worse still, they pay blind eye when the girl starts bringing little gifts from one uncle or the other, and before long, she becomes pregnant” Ogbor said.
Abandon or kill
He said most girls abandon the children on the streets after giving birth, kill them and dump in the refuse bins since they lack the resources to cater for the children.
“We have had several reports where these kids after giving birth abandoned their children or killed them. If the refuse disposal people tell you the number of dead kids found in refuse bins every week, you will suffocate.
My fear is that these abandoned children will become armed robbers, kidnappers and militants, who make life miserable for the ordinary person tomorrow,” he said.
Ogbor claims the government is playing the ostrich by not prosecuting people, who indulge in the act of allowing their children to go and get pregnant, which is aiding and abetting and the men who get the girls pregnant.
‘These are babies made to give birth to babies and some of them die in the process because they are too young or they get inflicted with some diseases”
No reported case yet – Commissioner
Commissioner for Social Welfare, Mr Oliver Orok, however, said: “There is a law in the state which specifies years of imprisonment for anyone who abuses, defiles a minor engage in child labour. We are yet to receive any of such cases because we will not take it kindly with anyone who perpetrates such acts.”