More needs to be done to protect women from the dangers of unsafe abortions, a United Nations official told a forum in Ghana that is examining the extent of the problem in Africa, where some 5.5 million unsafe abortions are performed annually.
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.
“An estimated 36,000 young adults of school-going age die needlessly of unsafe abortion in Africa,” she told the four-day conference.
“On the African continent, the debate needs to address legalizing abortion and making it a safe practice.”
The conference, under its theme “Keeping our promise: Addressing unsafe abortion in Africa,” aims to open up that debate by bringing together health experts, policymakers and practitioners from around Africa and recognizing reproductive health as a critical issue for the continent.
Ms. Ruzvidzo said the conference builds on growing concerns about the alarming maternal mortality rate among African women.
“Roughly 5.5 million unsafe abortions are performed annually in Africa and the deaths from unsafe abortion account for approximately 14 per cent of all maternal deaths in the region,” she said, quoting World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.
For her part, Aissatou Gueye, from the ECA’s Economic Development Division, told the forum that unsafe abortion is the only option for many women and called for more to be done to protect women’s rights.
“Existing international and regional agreements on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights must be honoured to improve maternal mortality and reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion,” she said.