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Abortion complications still robbing young lives in Uganda

Experts blame the high levels of abortions to lack of comprehensive contraception, sex education, safer abortion measures, and safe and quality post abortion measures


KAMPALA (Xinhua) — Uganda spends 7.5 billion shillings (3.1 million U.S. dollars) annually treating complications resulting from unsafe abortion, a new study reveals.

The World Health Organization guidance on abortion-related services reveals that in Uganda, about 300,000 abortions are carried out every year and in Africa an estimated 68,000 girls die from unsafe abortion and many more are injured, some permanently.

While speaking at a national conference on reducing maternal mortality from unsafe abortion, Florence Mirembe, an associate professor at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Mulago hospital last week said abortion related complications are one of the leading causes of admissions to gynecological wards in hospitals across the country.

Charles Kiggundu, a consultant gynecologist and obstetrician says many women, especially youth die from complications of unsafe abortion in the East African country.

“There is evidence that whatever the law or restrictions attached to abortion, the practice only goes underground and kills more women,” he said.

Experts like Kiggundu blame the high levels of abortions in the country to lack of comprehensive contraception, sex education, safer abortion measures, and safe and quality post abortion measures for those that must have the abortions.

According to The State of Uganda’s Population Report, about 755, 000 women get unintended pregnancies each year and many end up having unsafe abortions.

In Ugandan law, abortion is illegal. Any person who, with intent, procures an abortion is subjected to imprisonment for 14 years.

The law, however, provides for exceptions for this violation in situations when a pregnancy endangers the life of the mother and in some cases where rape has been proved.

Most women choosing abortion are doing so because of unplanned pregnancies, rape, incest and poor marital relationships.

Experts say that more than half of all abortions are believed to be carried out by individuals equipped with the knowledge and tact. These include doctors, nurses and midwives.

The remaining procedures are performed by non-professionals, including pharmacists, traditional providers and women, according to Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide.

WHO places the number of women who die from complications resulting from abortions performed by unskilled practitioners every year at 67,000.

According to the global health body, unsafe abortions are characterized by the provider’s inadequate skills; unsanitary facilities and use of hazardous techniques.

Health risks at the time of an unsafe abortion include infection, hemorrhage, septic shock and abdominal injury.

In the long run, chronic problems such as pelvic infection, ectopic pregnancy and infertility can occur.

State owned New Vision daily in November last year published a story of Kansiime a 14 year old girl who was forced to abort by her 20 year old boyfriend.

“I got pregnant in June, and when I found out in July and told Adolf about it, he said I must abort because the Police would arrest him for defilement,” Kansiime said.

“Although I was not ready for pregnancy, I never wanted to abort. I wanted to have my baby but Adolf took me into a clinic. The “doctor” told me to lie on a bed and said he was going to terminate the pregnancy,” she said.

After the abortion, the doctor instructed her to leave and did not give her any medication, despite the tremendous pain and over- bleeding.

“I was told to come back the next day to remove the cotton wool that he had inserted in my private parts. By the time I came out, Adolf was nowhere to be seen. I had to walk 1km back home. My condition worsened at night,” Kansiime narrates.

Uganda ’s contraceptive use stands at 24 percent which is less than projected target of 50 percent by 2050.

The 2011/2012 national budget Uganda allocated 8 billion shillings (3.3 million U.S. dollars) for family planning.

Activists argue that for Uganda to reduce on the abortion levels which arise mainly because of unwanted pregnancies government must invest adequately in maternal health and family planning.

According to the United Nations Population Fund Uganda has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world standing at 435 deaths per 100,000 births while unsafe abortion causes up to 26 percent of the maternal deaths.

According to the UN population agency although more women in Uganda are now able to practice family planning, majority still lack full access to reproductive health services, including quality contraceptive services.

Reproductive Health Uganda , a local nongovernmental organization has embarked on a massive distribution of condoms and contraceptives in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and HIV/ AIDS.

The organization is using university students to reach their peers educating them on using contraceptives


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