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20.11.2008 Health

Unsafe abortions cause 30% maternal mortality

By The Statesman

The Country Director of Ipas Ghana, Jehu Appiah, has disclosed that 30% of maternal mortality in Ghana is due to unsafe abortion.

Calling for the right definition of the law governing abortion in the country, he said most Ghanaian women are sexually exploited by their male counterparts in most parts of the country.

Delivering a speech at an advocacy training course organised for fifty selected Young Female Student Leader on Maternal Mortality and Sexual Reproductive Health Right by Ghana Women's Voice in partnership with Ipas Ghana at the University of Ghana, Legon, he pointed out that though the abortion law was passed in 1985, Ghanaians pretend not to notice it.

 He therefore called for the enforcement of the law to make it accessible for any one in need of it.

He also attributed the increase to religious and cultural beliefs. For example, in the Northern part of Ghana, teenagers are given to chiefs who are over sixty years old, and after the death of the chief the women are left alone, not permitted to remarry because of the belief that chief"s wives cannot marry after their husband's death.

This, he said, sometimes leads to the ladies becoming involved in immoral activities.

"With the above, they opt for abortion when ever they get pregnant. Some of these ladies use all sort of means to just get rid of the pregnancy because of public ridicule.'

He mentioned that some of the ladies drink all kinds of concoctions while some use metals in their vaginal canal which leads to severe blood loss. According to him, if safe abortions are encouraged regularly, the current level of maternal mortality will be reduced.

Charging government to make it a priority as soon as possible, he further called for the strengthening of partnerships aimed at funding and improving sexual and reproductive health programmes.

He also called for the inclusion of family planning commodities, especially contraceptives for rape victims in the NHIS.

Afua Ofori-Atta, a pharmacist, in her presentation said SRH was no longer a health issue but a development issue of major importance as the country gears towards a middle-income status.

She said it was crucial that the nation took responsibility for its SRH programmes and adequately funded them, adding that it was time to remove all bottlenecks on SRH which had become a threat to development. 'One person dies out of every 16 unsafe abortions,' she revealed.

Robert Mensah, touching on maternal mortality, said half a million women die, while 300 million experience short- or long-term illness. Eight million women have stillbirths and early neonatal death annually.

In reducing the maternal mortality in the country, something needs to be done immediately to resolve the problem, he believes.

 In Dr. Mensah's opinion, three delays must be tackled: the delay to health facility, decision-making and getting access to health personnel, among others.

Stressing on what needs to done to save lives, he said we must prevent pregnancy and its complications and also increase education on the causes and its prevention.

He further advised women to know the facility, skilled provider, transportation, facility preparedness, and staff attitude of where she would deliver before the time comes.

For her part, the CEO of Media-Com Plus Ghana Ltd, the event organisers, Ms Elsie Appau urged the youth leaders to ensure that the youth have access to clear, non-judgmental speech, age-appropriate and comprehensive information about SRH.