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21.07.2005 Health

Unsafe abortion among adolescents on the rise


Accra, July 21, GNA - The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital treats on the average 50 cases of unsafe abortion a month with adolescents being the most victims. Victims mainly children within the ages of 15 and 19 years get pregnant either by strangers, school teachers, fathers, boyfriends and the elderly.

Mrs Hectorina Yebuah, Deputy Director of Nursing Services, Korle-Bu, said this in an interview with the GNA, when a team of journalists visited the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the hospital.

She noted that the Department treated at least a case of unsafe abortion a day, saying "this has made unsafe abortion a cause of worry to us as health personnel".

The visit was part of a three-day training workshop for journalists on "Saving Women's Lives: Expanding Media Capacity to Fight Unsafe Abortion" in Accra.

It was organised by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based non-governmental organisation involved in activities that inform policy makers, educators and the media on population and related issues.

She said these children, mostly students, out of school children, house helps and kayayee, upon realising that they were pregnant, sought advice from their peers, who also introduced them to all sorts of concoctions to abort their pregnancy.

She explained that these girls did not tell their parents that they were pregnant for fear of being beaten or thrown out of the house. Mrs Yebuah explained that many women had died out of unsafe abortion while others had had severe long-term complications, including injury to the genital tract and internal organs, chronic pelvic pain, infertility and psychological trauma.

Mrs Yebuah mentioned some of the drugs used by these girls as high doses of paracetamol, chloroquine, ergot, coffee, grounded bottle, alcoholic drinks, grounded ants, cockroaches and herbal preparations inserted into the vagina or enemas and gun powder.

"Some even use trans-cervical insertions of sticks (cassava) and some will have trauma jumping unto the abdomen to force the foetus out."

She noted that abortion cases were seasonal and they came after cultural festivities where merrymaking took place with indiscriminate and unsafe sex taking place among the youth. She added that reported cases normally started from the month of August. Mrs Yebuah giving the statistics, said 91 cases were reported in January; 99 in February; 100 cases in March; 103 cases in April and 75 cases in May.

She said 30 per cent of recorded maternal deaths at the Korle-Bu Hospital had been due to unsafe abortions.

More than 30,000 African women die each year from unsafe and often illegal abortion, with tens of thousands more suffering serious injuries including infertility.

In 2003 there were 1,356 cases of unsafe abortion at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and 1,368 in 2004, which resulted in 29 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively, of maternal deaths. She called for continuous education on the dangers associated with unsafe abortion and the use of contraceptives as a measure to curtail the menace.

"If we are able to accept the use of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, then I believe, it will reduce cases of unsafe abortion and there will be no need to legalise abortion."