By Nyasa Times Reporter

July 3, 2013

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.

“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.


Publish Date: Jun 14, 2012

By Doreen Murungi

Uganda spends sh7.5bn each year 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.

“Abortion related complications are one of the leading causes of admissions to gynaecological wards in hospitals across the country,” Professor Florence Mirembe, an associate professor at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Mulago hospital said last week.

She was speaking at a three day national conference on reducing maternal mortality from unsafe abortion that brought together different participants in government and the private sector.

Dr. Charles Kiggundu, a consultant gynecologist and obstetrician says many women, especially youth die from complications of unsafe abortion in Uganda.

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

Dr.OliveSentubwe a WHO reproductive and maternal health expert revealed that 85,000 women are treated for complications from abortion every year. An estimated 68,000 die every year in Africa from unsafe abortion and many more are injured, some permanently.  Not only is this a weighty magnitude but there are major financial costs involved.

A study by Guttmarcher, an institute seeking to advance sexual and reproductive health shows that $83 (sh205,000) is spent treating post abortion complications per patient in Africa and jumps to $114(sh280,000) when overhead and capital costs are included.

This means that a country like Uganda, with 85,000 women treated for abortion complications every year, could be spending at least $7m about sh17.6bn.

“Treating complications of unsafe abortions overwhelms impoverished healthcare services and diverts limited resources from other critical health care,” Sentubwe said.

According to the medical experts, nearly all unsafe abortions are because of unwanted pregnancies, the costs result from the failure to prevent those pregnancies through family planning or, to terminate them safely within constraints of the law.

“Health systems have a responsibility to provide these services and to build understanding of unsafe abortion as a critical public health issue, social justice and human right,” said Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah, the vice president for Africa of Ipas, a global nongovernmental organization working to increase women’s access to reproductive health services.

The participants urged governments to compare the costs of unsafe abortion with the fairly reasonable costs of the actions that could prevent unintended pregnancies so as to better protect women’s health and cut down the costs spent on the implications of unsafe abortion.

“We need to remove blame, be non-judgmental and provide empathetic care to the victims who certainly do not need to die if there is comprehensive contraception, sexuality education everywhere especially for young people, safer abortion measures for those that must have the abortions and safe and quality post abortion care for the unfortunate ones,” Dr. Charles Kiggundu, recommends.–the-right-to-choose&catid=21:columns&Itemid=2




Wednesday, 02 May 2012 09:42


The campaign for the legalisation of abortion in Botswana has taken unprecedented levels in the recent past. The Assistant Minister of Local Government Ms. Tshireletso has called on government to consider legalising abortion. There is another dimension to this issue. It relates to reproductive rights of women and their right to determine when to bear children. Liberty relates to the right to do what is permitted by law.


The Penal Code (Amendment) 1998 proscribes the process of terminating a pregnancy. The law has made it highly difficult for women to terminate pregnancy. This has meant that women have to resort to street abortion to assert their reproductive rights and make a deliberate decision whether or not to keep the pregnancy.  Abortion is illegal in Botswana and there is a need to demand law reforms to “allow access to safe abortive measures” and this regard, the call by the Minister should be applauded. The restrictive criteria for legal abortions and the continued criminalisation of abortion pushes women into unsafe abortions and early deaths. It is given that many women are dying out there from complications arising following backyard abortions. Rape victims end up giving birth to unwanted babies because of the cumbersome process to have the abortion sanctioned. Many women who are rape victims and who for one reason or another are unable to report rape case are left to deal with the trauma of rape and live to see the products of rape grow in their wombs.


Statistics from Zimbabwe for example are worrying. According to the 2007 Zimbabwe Maternal And Perinatal Mortality Survey, 26,000 to 84,000 women suffer from disabilities caused by complications during pregnancy and child-birth each year.


The fact that abortion is illegal means it is not a right for women to abort. According the Penal Code (Amendment) of 1998 provides that abortion is legal only when the life of the mother and her physical health is endangered by the continuation of the pregnancy; where there is serious risk that the child to be born will suffer from physical or mental defects of such a nature that it will be permanently or seriously be handicapped and where there is reasonable possibility that the foetus conceived is as a result of unlawful intercourse. But, even in such circumstances where the law provides for legal abortion, the process and legal procedures are lengthy, and often results in traumatic experiences for women. There are instances where women are forced to give birth because of delays in procuring a legal abortion. By the time they receive authorisation, it is medically dangerous to terminate the pregnancy.


Due to the restrictive nature of abortion laws, there is a high prevalence of illegal abortions taking place in the country. There is need to decriminalise abortion to allow access to safe abortive measures thus reducing the number of women conducting illegal abortions. Women empowerment also means giving them the right to choose with respect to their body when to conceive and when conceived, whether or not to keep the pregnancy.

In spite of new findings, the government continues to deliberate on the best plan of action.

Article | 3 April 2012 – 11:17am | By Lameck Masina

Blantyre, Malawi:

Officially illegal, but by no means uncommon, abortion is a controversial topic in Malawi.

Abortion is outlawed except in cases where pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Section 149 of Malawi’s penal code condemns any person who administers an abortion to 14 years imprisonment, while Section 156 states that any woman who solicits an abortion is liable to 7 years in prison.

Despite this, abortions still occur, usually performed by untrained personnel.

A report conducted by Malawi’s Ministry of Health in conjunction with Ipas, a reproductive rights organisation headquartered in the US, found that 70,000 women had an illegal abortion in 2009 alone. It further showed that about 17% of maternal deaths in Malawi are the result of unsafe abortions.

The study, therefore, asked government to liberalise abortion laws so that a pregnant woman would have access to trained a medical practitioner if “she has ill health and needs an abortion and if the pregnancy is as a result of sexual coercion or if indeed the woman really feels that she cannot carry on with the pregnancy due to economic reasons”.

A money-saving initiative

The study also showed that Malawi is spending a significant amount of money on treating post-abortion complications. This was reiterated by the 2012 preliminary report on ‘Health System Costs of Providing Post Abortion Care in Malawi’, which estimates that basic post-abortion care costs around $45.

The report states, “Public health facilities in Malawi that provide post-abortion care spend approximately $1.06 million annually to treat women with complications of unsafe abortion”. It continues: “If safe abortion services were made available to women, approximately $435,000 would become available in public health care facilities each year to divert to other health care needs”.

A right for all

Women’s rights campaigners are also sounding the call to change the law with local and international rights organisations such as Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust WILSA-Malawi, the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion COPUA, and Ipas all taking part.

Seode White, National Coordinator for WILSA-Malawi, explained to Think Africa Press that their fight is largely for the rights of poor, rural girls and women who do not have money to seek safe abortion services from private hospitals.

“Despite being illegal, the fact is that women from urban areas seek abortion in private health clinics where they get safe abortions while those poor girls in rural areas go to a backstreet clinic and get a very poor service. Some of them die and others end up not being able to have babies ever again,” she said.

“It’s high time Malawi take a leaf from other African countries like Zambia and South Africa where abortion is legal”.

In a sense, campaigners are simply trying to get Malawi to honour their commitment to the Maputo protocol, an agreement supporting greater reproductive rights for women.

Executive Secretary of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Grace Malera, explained: “The Maputo protocol has an article that is subscribing to liberalisation [not only] when the pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother but as well as pregnancies that are resulting from rape and incest. In terms of the human rights, that is a right to health issue and we need to address it”.

Resistance to change

But not everyone is convinced of the need for more liberal abortion laws. David Odali, Executive Director of local human rights organisation the Umunthu Foundation, told Think Africa Press that liberalising abortion laws would be tantamount to giving people “a license to sleep around”, which would eventually lead to an increase in HIV transmission.

“If we have an open law on abortion, this would be subject to abuse because these women that are willingly getting pregnant will continue doing so knowing that once they are pregnant they have the option to end it”, he argued.

Most traditional and religious leaders in Malawi also consider abortion a sin and reject calls for its legalisation. Macdonald Kadawati, Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee, an umbrella organisation for the major faith communities in the country insisted that abortion was “not good for both the mother and the child”.

“The Bible tells us the point at which life begins…God has designed that one should be born and no one should take that life away because that is murder,” he says.

Sheikh Dinala Chabulika, National Coordinator of the Islamic Information Bureau, claimed that Islam generally regards abortion as murder and that “in Islam, abortion is only allowed when there is proof from a medical doctor that the life of a mother will be in danger during delivery.”

Despite resistance from religious leaders, however, the Ministry of Health has previously found that unsafe abortion isrampant among religious women in the country.

Watching and waiting

Despite research findings that have highlighted the health risks and economic costs incurred due to existing laws on abortion, health authorities have remained reluctant to declare their position on the possible liberalisation of these laws.

Health ministry spokesperson Henry Chimbali, for example, maintains that the authorities are still assessing the findings before they reach a conclusion. While the government assesses and pro and anti-abortion groups debate, dangerous illegal abortions continue.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact:

WomanCare Global announced today that mifepristone has been added to their reproductive healthcare portfolio.

Through an agreement with Linepharma, WomanCare Global will provide sales, marketing, provider training and distribution of mifepristone in seven European and seven African countries. Linepharma’s mifepristone is labeled for use as a single 200mg tablet of mifepristone to perform medical abortion in conjunction with a prostaglandin, in compliance with the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

Linepharma’s mifepristone is manufactured in Europe and is currently approved in five E.U. countries. The planned distribution of mifepristone by WomanCare Global in 14 countries will ensure that close to 55 million women will have another safe, quality product to manage their reproductive health.

Please read the entire press release at

 December 15, 2011, 6:34 am


DAKAR, Senegal — Between heavy lunches and poolside cocktails, the doctors and health experts who gathered at a fancy hotel here early this month to talk about reproductive health often brought up cultural taboos. Cultural taboos that hinder open discussion of H.I.V., cultural taboos that prevent the availability of contraceptives, cultural taboos that make abortions illegal in many African countries.

Every sub-Saharan African state already allows pregnant women to abort when their lives are in danger, and in recent years Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Swaziland and Togo have been working at expanding their laws to allow abortions in more circumstances.

Still, in all of sub-Saharan Africa, abortion is legal only in Cape Verde and South Africa. And the number of unsafe abortions on the continent is staggeringly high: every year, there are over six million unsafe abortions conducted in Africa, and about 30,000 women die from the procedure. Unsafe abortions are among the leading causes of death for women admitted to hospitals around much of the continent.

The solution to this problem is clear. Just two years after abortion became legal in South Africa, the number of deaths among pregnant women who underwent the procedure fell precipitously: by 90 percent between 1998 and 2001, according to the South African Medical Journal. But legalizing abortion won’t be easy. Even since 45 African countries signed the 2005 Maputo Protocol, pledging to relax their abortion laws, local health-care providers throughout the continent have refused to provide safe procedures or counseling.

The root of this resistance is more complex than any one entrenched stigma. Take Eunice Brookman-Amissah, a doctor who attended the conference in Dakar. Twenty years ago, she was a gynecologist in Ghana. One day, the 14-year-old daughter of a family friend whom she’d treated since the girl was 10, walked in, scared and asking for an abortion. The father was a much older man. Brookman-Amissah said she was shocked and turned the girl away, telling her she didn’t perform that type of procedure because she thought it was sinful. A few days later, Brookman-Amissah found out that the man had sent the girl to a witch doctor in the countryside and that the girl had died from a botched abortion.

Edgar Kuchingale, a doctor in Malawi who also attended the conference, told me that to this day prejudice, especially about immoral sexual behavior, remains a major hurdle. But for Brookman-Amissah, now vice president for Africa of Ipas, a reproductive-health nongovernmental organization, the problem mostly lies elsewhere: “It is not as if it is by custom that Africans are against abortion. Rather, it is the colonial laws that we need to get rid of.”

Many restrictive abortion laws in Africa date back to colonial codes, and the bigotry of the law has trickled through society. Mali’s law is based on the Napoleonic Code from 1810, which forbade abortion. Nigeria’s, one of the world’s most restrictive, dates back to a British provision from 1861.

Brookman-Amissah told me that she was changed by her patient’s death. Soon she became known at Ghana’s health ministry as the “abortion lady.” Working with Ipas, she started passing out vacuum-aspiration kits for post-abortion care to women who had given themselves procedures outside of hospitals.

Brookman-Amissah, who was Ghana’s minister of health from 1996 to 1998, had some success in decentralizing reproductive care to rural outposts and clinics and in training midwives and natural-birth attendants in performing abortions. Ghana’s maternal death rate dropped as a result, if only slowly: there were 451 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2008, down from 740 deaths in 1990, according to The Ghanaian Journal.

The current laws urgently need abolishing or amending. After so many years of women’s health in Africa being dictated by governments, both domestic and foreign, it’s time African women be allowed to take the matter of their bodies into their own hands.

Travel for this post was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


Alexis Okeowo is a freelance journalist who has worked across Africa and in Cuba and Mexico.

International Solidarity Call-Out to all Health Rights, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Economic/Social Justice Activists and Movements,


Friday February 4th is African Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights Day!

Across the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town, women are mobilising for recognition and respect of their sexual and reproductive rights. On February 4th, women’s and health rights advocates in communities throughout Africa will hold forums, dialogues with parliamentarians, participatory community theatre, and outreach programmes in schools and the streets to raise their voices for the recognition and respect of their rights to sexual and reproductive autonomy. Young women are taking leadership positions in the upcoming events, standing shoulder to shoulder with older generations of sexual and reproductive rights advocates, while men are also participating as important allies.

United in their actions as health, women’s, sexual and reproductive rights defenders across the vast African continent, they are calling on the international community to note common concerning trends, including:

* A continued pattern of brutal sexualised violence against women, surrounded by a culture of impunity due to a lack of safe mechanisms for seeking justice and redress;

*Verbal assaults, physical attacks, sexual harassment, death threats and criminal charges directed at those who speak out for legal, safe, accessible abortion, and  those who challenge patriarchal cultural and social norms, such as polygamy, child marriage, and female genital mutilation;

*Increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS amongst women, and  systematic stigmatisation, including targeted instances of forced sterilisation and coercive abortions;

* Arrest, torture, rape and murder targeting people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), and those who defend the rights of LGBTI communities.

* Continued lack of recognition of the sexual and reproductive needs and rights of diverse populations of marginalised peoples-including those with different abilities, minority ethnic populations, those who identify as LGBTI and sex workers.

*Increased restrictions on access to essential sexual and reproductive health supplies and services, as a result of ideological and religious pressure, conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions, fewer donors willing to fund these services and control by multinational pharmaceutical companies.


Now it is time to seize the opportunity to show your solidarity with women across Africa defending their sexual and reproductive rights!

1. Read the letter below that is addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), the Court(AfCHPR) and Special Rapporteurs. On Friday, deliver this message by fax, email and phone the nearest Tanzanian and Ghanian Embassies to you. Addresses for these embassies can be found online by copying and pasting these links:



2. Continue to organise within your own community for respect for women’s and health rights and for reproductive and sexual justice for all people. If there are Afro-descendants in your community, reflect on whether your work is inclusive of them, open to their leadership and to that of other diverse populations. Collective policy, legislative and community actions to address women’s rights, health rights, sexual rights and reproductive rights from an inclusive, non-oppressive, human rights and social justice approach are important examples for others from around the world to hear and learn about.

3. Join the ongoing vigils and solidarity actions in your community that support of the efforts of sexual and reproductive rights defenders from diverse walks of life in Egypt who have been exerting courageous efforts to win respect for their rights despite severe factors of repression. If greater respect for sexual and reproductive rights is won in policy and practice, it could serve as an example for other parts of the continent.

4. Send us photos of your work and watch the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights website as we post updates from across the African continent where different actions are planned.


For more information, contact:

Tanya Roberts-Davis

Campaigns Officer, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

Red Mundial de Mujeres por los Derechos Reproductivos

Réseau Mondial de Femmes por les Droits Reproductifs

13 Dao Street, Project 3 Barangay Quirino 3-A Quezon City, 1102

Email: tanya@wgnrr.orgWebsite:


November 09, 2010

Accra, Nov. 9, GNA – More than 250 health care providers, advocates, Parliamentarians, women’s groups, community members and allied agencies from across Africa are meeting in Accra, to share best practices and lessons and initiate an agenda for action.

The four-day conference would focus on unsafe abortion as a critical issue for reproductive health and rights in Africa, and for achieving the Millennium Development Goal Five, to reduce maternal mortality.

Opening the conference in Accra, Mr Robert Joseph Mettle-Nunoo, Deputy Minister of Health, said no woman should die of unsafe abortion when there were legal abortion services available.

He said women needed to be given a voice and choices if really Africa needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Mr Mettle-Nunoo said women needed to be respected and the meeting was an opportunity to take stock of the progress made in addressing unsafe abortion.

IPAS, an International non-governmental organisation, the main sponsor of the conference, is collaboration with the Ministry of Health, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Women’s Development and Communication Network (better known as FEMNET), International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Regional Office and Marie Stopes International to organise the event.

It is under the theme “Keeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa”.

Mr Mettle-Nunoo noted that there were laws regarding abortion that needed to be enforced and said women should also be educated on the provision of safe abortion in certain instances.

He called for intensified training to ensure that doctors undertake quality abortion and expressed concern for the inadequate supply of contraceptives.

The Deputy Minister of Health condemned the stigmatisation of women who undertake abortion and said there should be more education on the matter.

He said “no woman wants abortion and if it requires that she does it, there is a law that backs that decision”.

More than half of the 67,500 global deaths related to unsafe abortion, occur in Africa and more than half of the women who die from unsafe abortion in Africa are younger than 25 years.

Of the five million women globally who are hospitalised with complications from unsafe abortion every year, more than one million are from Africa.

Dr Eunice Brookman-Amissah, IPAS Vice President for Africa, said “We have made great achievements towards saving women’s lives in the past several years and we must strive to reform archaic laws. We must trust women to make their own reproductive choices for themselves, their families and their communities.”

She explained that while celebrating new data indicating that globally maternal mortality was at last falling, little progress had occurred on the African continent.

Dr Brookman-Amissah said: “Obtaining real political commitment to address unsafe abortion remains very hard but this needs to happen if we are to eliminate this totally preventable cause of maternal deaths in our countries.

“When leaders fail to implement known, affordable solutions to this entirely preventable problem, we can only conclude that they do not sufficiently value the women and girls whose lives are at stake”.

The IPAS Vice President said for the achievement of MDG5 and to protect African women and girls, it was essential that “we take the next step in effectively addressing unsafe abortion, including improving women’s access to safe abortion. And the time for that is NOW –before many more women die”.

Dr Brookman-Amissah called for strategies to overcome the iniquities and inequities that were restrictive to abortion laws and take the moral decision to no longer deny women access to services that we had the knowledge and the technologies to provide.

Dr Richard Turkson, Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada, noted that the stigma surrounding abortion was still very strong but no longer absolute and there was the need now to say the word “abortion” in many settings where it previously was unthinkable.

Women’s right to sexual and reproductive health, including the right to safe legally-permitted abortion, he said was a basic human right that should be enjoyed by all women and like every human right, this should translate into the necessary social, economic and cultural conditions and facilities under which their legitimate aspirations and dignity might be fully realised.

The agenda of the conference would include; a review of regional and national progress in addressing unsafe abortion, lessons from research and experience that could improve safe abortion care, post abortion care and related reproductive health care, such as preventing unwanted pregnancy, discussion of an agenda for action for the African region and ways to improve collaboration among governments, NGOs and other stakeholders.