Reproductive Health Forum In Ghana Addresses Unsafe Abortions In Africa

The issue of unsafe abortion and its role in women’s health was the focus of a four-day conference this week in Accra, Ghana, involving health experts, policymakers and health workers from across Africa, Ghana News Agency reports. According to the news service, the conference agenda was to 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” (11/9).

Addressing the forum, “Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the African Centre for Gender and Social Development at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said many commitments have been made regarding women’s health, maternal mortality and addressing unsafe abortion, but strategies for meeting unfulfilled promises are needed,” U.N. News Centre writes. The conference builds from the growing attention of the importance of addressing the issue of maternal mortality in Africa, Ruzvidzo noted.

Pointing to data obtained by the WHO, Ruzvidzo explained, an estimated “5.5 million unsafe abortions are performed annually in Africa and the deaths from unsafe abortion account for approximately 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the region,” according to U.N. News Centre. “On the African continent, the debate needs to address legalizing abortion and making it a safe practice,” she said (11/10).

Aissatou Gueye of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) “told the forum that unsafe abortion is the only recourse many women have to control their fertility preferences, which results in high morbidity and mortality, and is a clear violation of their human rights,” according to a UNECA press release. “Existing international and regional agreements on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights must be honored to improve maternal mortality and reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion,” she said, according to the press release (11/10).

Ghana News Agency, in a separate article, reports that a declaration was issued at the end of the conference that called upon governments to “initiate review of laws criminalising abortion, in line with specific commitments under international and regional agreements, including specific and increased funding for reproductive health and measures to address unsafe abortion in national and health system budgets.” Additionally, the “delegates called on multilateral donor agencies as well as international technical support agencies to direct more resources to prevent unsafe abortion and make safe legal abortion available” (11/11).

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