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Malawi’s health crisis: 141,000 abortion performed in 2015, 60% resulted into complications, north dominating

Pregnant woman

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)- Malawi is on the verge of losing the lives of many women and girls, through unsafe abortion. This is true if the current statistics is anything to go by; that is about 141, 000 abortions were performed in 2015 with 60 percent of them having resulted in complications.

This is the report the University of Malawi, in conjunction with the Guttmacher Institute, released on Tuesday in the capital Lilongwe. The two institutions are, therefore, calling for a swift legal frame toward the adoption of safe abortion services.

The study discloses that the annual abortion rate is at 38% per 1,000 women of the reproduction ages of 15-49, and says this is an indication that abortion is common in Malawi.

According to the report titled, “Clandestine and unsafe abortion common in Malawi: New evidence can inform policy discussions on reducing maternal deaths.” It holds that the Malawi abortion rates vary widely by region, from 29 per 1,000 women in the central region to 61 in the northern region.

The findings disclosed that in 2015, 38% of the pregnancies in Malawi, ended in planned births and that there were 30% of unplanned births, 16% in abortion, and 15% in miscarriages.

The study also highlights that Malawi’s abortion rate is similar to other countries in the region, including Tanzania (36 per 1,000 women) and Uganda (39 per 1,000), as well as in Eastern Africa with the rate of 34 per 1,000 and Southern Africa (35 per 1,000).

It adds that 35% of Malawi’s post-abortion care cases are treated at district hospitals, while at Health centers, the rate is 22% and 30% in clinics.

The report points out that complications from abortions are estimated to account for 6% to 18% of Malawi’s maternal deaths.

In his address at the news conference on the outcome of the study, co-author of the report, Dr. Charles Mhango, said it was the responsibility of government to respond to the findings, and thereby to save lives.

Dr. Mhango noted that restrictive abortions laws do not stop abortions from occurring; they just drive the act underground.

“Restrictive laws in abortion, force women to resort to clandestine procedures, which are often unsafe. Addressing unsafe abortion, (therefor) is an urgent public health priority,” Dr. Mhango said.

“Our findings should give authorities good reasons to look seriously into women and girls health-welfare. It’s not our responsibility to push for legalization of safe abortion in this country, but given what is happening in the nation, then all of us must make the right decision,” he said.

In her response to the findings, the Director of Reproductive Health in the Ministry of Health, Ms. Fannie Kachale, assured the public of government’s continued provision of reproductive health services in public hospitals to address the challenges due to unplanned pregnancies.

Kachale disclosed that the proposed abortion law reforms are still under review and that as soon as it is finalized, it will be submitted to Parliament for deliberations.

The findings come amid heavy public debate on the proposed abortion law reforms, which some religious and civil society organizations, are arguing on the merits and/or demerits of legalizing safe abortion or not.

This is happening despite it is one year since the Malawi Law Commission (MLC) through the Special Law Commission (SLC) on the proposed abortion law, presented a report on its findings and recommendations to the general public. This has resulted in two groups emerging: one that supports legalizing abortion, the other against the proposal.

But the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission (EPJC), a social governance arm of the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), and the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), stood their ground and held demonstrations on December 7, 2016, to highlight their stand against legalization abortion.

While on the other side, several civil society organizations (CSOs), including the Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), the Center for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR), and the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS (MANETELA), strongly disputed the calls for nationwide protest arguing that the former group do not have the mandate to dictate the actions of everyone, considering that Malawi is a secular state.

Although, the SCL review on abortion law started in 2013, and composed of representatives from numerous sectors including the Ministries of Health, Justice, Judiciary, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), traditional leaders, Malawi Law Society, and Malawi College of Medicine, the conflicting battle rages on.


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