…As 7 335 women illegally terminate pregnancies
By Confidente Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku said that it is perhaps time for the country to consider legalising abortion after 7 335 women illegally aborted their pregnancies countrywide last year.
“We need an honest and thorough national reflection on the reasons why so many women risk their lives by resorting to unsafe abortion in a country where contraceptives are widely available. Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves whether it is not time to relook at the legislation and decriminalise abortion. The facts speak for itself (sic).”
Haufiku made the startling revelation during a media briefing on various health issues in the capital Monday where he revealed that of the 7 335 abortions, only 138 were carried out on medical grounds. Haufiku fears that the figure is only a tip of the iceberg explaining that most abortions are done in secret.
For decades abortion has been illegal in Namibia. This has however not stopped hordes of pregnant women skirting the law by every means possible in a bid to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
“For the period 1 January to 31 December 2016, 7 335 abortions were recorded at state hospitals countrywide, of which 138 were on medical grounds, constituting about two percent of all abortions. It is suspected that this is only but a tip of the iceberg as it is common knowledge that most abortions are done in secret. Often an abortion will only be presented to health facilities when it is incomplete or if the woman develops complications,” Haufiku said.
He added that abortions were a major concern saying that unsafe abortions pose risks to the women’s physical and mental health.
Haufiku also touched on the issue of maternal and neonatal deaths revealing that between April 2012 and March 2015, a total 3 434 neonatal and 93 maternal deaths were recorded from 191 517 live births.
He added that 103 maternal deaths were also reported over 20 months during the period April 1 2015 to November 30 2016.
“The major causes of maternal mortality are hypertensive disease, obstetric hemorrhage, pregnancy related sepsis, abortion and anesthetic complications. Indirect causes of maternal mortality are mainly related to the high HIV/ AIDS prevalence in Namibia”.
Haufiku said that the ministry has since set up a National Maternal Peri Neonatal Death Review Committee (NMPNDRC) to look into maternal and peri neonatal deaths submitted through regional and district levels.
“These are efforts aimed at identifying all the possible contributing factors to maternal and newborn deaths to avoid recurrence of preventable deaths and deaths from the same causes.”
Haufiku narrated that factors contributing to these deaths include the delay to decide to seek health care services as a result of lack of information, delay in getting to health facilities owing to lack of transport and the delay in receiving prompt and appropriate medical care.
“To reverse the trend, it is necessary to improve the availability, utilisation, accessibility, affordability and quality services in terms of skills, supplies, and equipment etc of maternal and newborn services especially in underserved areas.”
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