Health workers in Acholi sub-region trained to operate safe abortion

 Gulu An initiative to control the uprising level of abortion rates in the country has been boosted with intervention from the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [AOG].

The AOG is implementing a safe abortion campaign countrywide to emphasize on the prevention of abortion as “one of the major killers among women”.

The advocacy campaign that is running for two years from 2019 to 2020 has the main objective of: reducing high abortion rates in the country by empowering people and health workers with knowledge to exercise safe abortion.

In a meeting with some of the health workers in different health centres across Acholi sub-region in Gulu town recently to equip them with some of the legal issues surrounding abortion, the association called upon the health workers to champion these noble cause started in order to “prevent some other complications that might lead to death once unsafe abortion is undertaken”.

Dr Kayondo Simon, a member of the association while making his keynote speech in that meeting, urged health practitioners to boost the campaign to stop abortion through advocating for safe abortion in their various facilities.

Dr Pebalo Francis Pebolo an obstetrician and a gynaecologist lecturer at Gulu University’s Faculty of Medicine and also a member of the Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said that their intervention was informed because unsafe abortion has been in practice by so many people due to mostly unexpected pregnancies.

He added that many people are still ignorant about the laws that also has a loopholes in controlling abortions and that is the challenge hindering abortion control.

“We are encouraging health workers to take lead in this advocacy since they have learnt circumstances under which an abortion can be induced and the laws that surrounds abortion,” he added.

“We are not gearing towards promotion of abortion but calling for a no harm abortion and fight on stigma,” he revealed.

Mr Pebolo said they have understood that women go to seek abortion services at different facilities but are turned down, this in turn, he says is increasing the rate of unsafe abortion and deaths since women tend to look for other alternatives.

Nsiimenta Saun Samantha a Lawyer working with Wagamasa and Company Advocate in Kampala acknowledged that the loopholes in the law is making it very hard for health workers to successfully handle abortion cases with fear that they might be arrested because it is illegal and yet “abortion is not illegal but rather restricted”.

One of the health workers who requested for anonymity says they have heard so many people who were suffering locally in the community due to the little knowledge of the law that governs abortion.

“And now the meeting with the lawyer has greatly opened both our minds on how to handle safe abortions,” he said.

Adoch Poline Atim, a midwife from Angaya Health Centre III revealed that the intervention by the association has enhanced her with enough knowledge on how to offer their client safe abortion as well as the law that controls abortion will guide her in her work.

Takish Oroma who’s the district health officer, Lamwo district revealed that they will be able to advocate about safe abortion after being tooled with the knowledge on preventing maternal death, resulting from unsafe abortion.

Additional comment

Doctor Kayondo Simon further said the association is currently running a 3 years project under the theme “safe abortion advocacy” which started this year in April and to push until 2022 under the support of International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO).

“Worthwhile we are prioritising women health with emphasis of manning prevention of the major killer of women in the country like unsafe abortion. “We are a voice for the women and voiceless category of people,” he noted.

Statistics and Law

According to a report by Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, over 900,000 of Uganda’s annual 2.2 million pregnancies are unintended and unplanned.

About 400,000 of these end up in abortion.

Uganda’s abortion rate is at 18 percent higher, in which the country loses up to 25 billion in post abortion care and treatment resulting from unsafe abortion.

In which unsafe abortion remains a catastrophic public health problem accounting up to 13% of maternal mortality worldwide.

In 2016, the ministry of health report indicated that 26% of pregnant women admitted in the hospital die due to unsafe abortion practices in Uganda.

And 28 million abortions are conducted across the world every year, 55% are carried out safely while 45% are unsafely conducted. 97% of unsafe abortion are carried out in the low income countries like Uganda.

The 2012 national policy guidelines and service standard of sexual reproductive health accept one to carry out an abortion in circumstance of defilement, rape, or a severe maternal illness which threatens the life of a pregnant woman.

According to the 1995 Uganda Constitution, Article 22 (2), says: “No person has the right to terminate (abort) the life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by law.” This implies that much as abortions are illegal in Uganda, there are situations where they could be considered legal.

By Komakech Jimmy & Rackara Emmanuel

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