African health ministers agree to tackle unsafe abortion

Health ministers from several African countries have vowed to tackle the high number of deaths of women due to unsafe and crude abortion by among other efforts, expanding the provision of safe abortion services.

The commitment was made by ministers of health and gender and senior government officials from Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia at a regional meeting of ministers on unsafe abortion and maternal mortality in Africa.

The meeting took place on June 18-19, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya and Malawi was represented by the then deputy ministers of health and gender Halima Daud, and Agnes Mandevu Chatipwa respectively, Lastone Chikoti, the Reproductive Health Officer in the ministry of health and Elsie Tembo the Second Principal Secretary in the ministry of gender.

“We note that unsafe abortion constitutes between 13-30 percent of the unacceptably high rates of maternal deaths in our countries, and acknowledge that concrete and urgent action must be taken to address this challenge if maternal death and injuries are to be effectively reduced.

Halima Daud attended

Halima Daud attended

“We additionally recognize that unsafe abortion constitutes a violation of women’s human rights, and affirm the link between protection, promotion and realization of women’s human rights to the improvement of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for women and girls in our countries,” reads the communiqué by the minister in part.

The ministers mentioned other countries which are providing safe abortion services and simultaneously reduced their maternal mortality rates.

The ministers thus committed themselves to individually and collectively as countries tackle the problem by examining laws, using evidence to raise awareness on issue.

“We will try to integrate evidence and advocacy on the issue of unsafe abortion into the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and in other efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in our respective countries.

“We will also encourage our governments to include the issue of unsafe abortion as part of the issue of maternal health in Cooperation Frameworks with donor countries and development partners,” said the ministers.

According to a 2010 ministry of health study called Abortion in Malawi: Results of a Study of Incidence and Magnitude of Complications of Unsafe Abortion, 70,000 Malawian women have abortions every year, which is 24 abortions for every 1000 women aged 15-44. 31,000 Malawian women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually.

Approximately 17 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi are attributable to unsafe abortion, making it one of the primary causes of maternal mortality. 30percent of all admissions in country’s gynecological wards are due to unsafe abortion.

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