Thursday, February 7, 2013

The price of sex in Uganda: unsafe abortion deaths and life-long scarred lives

More than a half of all pregnancies in Uganda are un-intended and nearly a third of them end in abortion, according to survey results unveiled by Dr Kiggundu Charles, a consultant Gynecologist at Mulago Hospital.

‘’Probably half of  all of you seated in front of me today were not intended by your parents’’ Dr Kiggundu told a fully- packed Palm conference room at Kabira Country Club on the outskirts of Kampala which had  gathered to hear the highly anticipated results of the study

The study results released by the US-based, Guttmacher Institute and the Center of Health, Human Rights and Development, also reveal that Ugandan women on average wished they had at least two children less, a phenomenon also called ‘excess fertility’.

On average, each woman in Uganda gives birth to 6.7 children which is high even by Sub-Saharan African standards. The study results which were released are based on analysis of Uganda’s 2011 Demographic and Health Survey(UDHS).

At the centre of the millions of un-intended pregnancies in Uganda is  essentially non-use of contraception.

Only an estimated 25% of women in Uganda have access to modern contraception methods pointing to a staggering lack of access to modern and safe contraception.

One in three married women in Uganda had an unmet need for contraception according to the survey results.

‘‘It is also a question of having less options of contraception’’ added Dr Frederick Mugisha, a health economist who maintained that Ugandan women do not have many choices when it comes to contraception.

Clearly, investments targeted at increasing access to family planning and contraception for women of reproductive age in Uganda would save the country phenomenal sums of monies spent on treating post abortion complications and having fewer mouths to feed, educate and would be kinder to the environment.

If all Ugandan women had met their wish of having two children less than they currently have the population of Uganda would have been undoubtedly impacted with gains in per capita income and a better quality of life achieved for millions of Ugandans. Indeed

It emerged at the meeting that myths and misconceptions about modern contraception methods as causing cancer and fibroids is widespread and is a barrier to contraception utilization by Ugandan women.

‘’The traditional medicine men have hijacked contraception education. There are several programs on local radio and television stations that are misinforming many women on safe contraception in preference for crude, riskier methods’;

Dr Zainab Akol, of the Ministry of Health regretted that the medical profession in
Uganda has ceded the ground for offering scientific and evidence-based contraception information to misinformed ‘medicine men’ on whose inaccurate advice many rural and uneducated women depend for decisions on birth control and family planning.

 ‘’Unsafe abortion and contraception is a human rights, public health, legal and moral issue in Uganda  that must be addressed’’ emphasized Moses Mulumba, head of the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development who revealed that 26% of all maternal deaths  are attributed to unsafe abortion.

Prof Ben Twinomugisha,Dean of the School of Law at Makerere University emphasized that human beings have a right to enjoy sex and then when debating issues surrounding abortion ‘the woman should be at the centre’ of the debate.

Studies done by the Guttmacher institute show that there is a co-relation between restrictive laws on birth control and increased abortion. Countries, especially in Europe, which have a liberal stance on birth control have fewer deaths from unsafe abortions and spend less on post abortion complications.

Dr Mugisha’s results show that Uganda spends about 4.7% of the national health budget on post abortion complications money which could be used to treat more deserving natural conditions.

 Annociata  Kampaire, head of Alliance for integrated Development and Empowerment called for the legalization of abortion in Uganda which according to Article 22 of the Uganda constituion is illegal except ‘under conditions’ provided by law.

Uganda is a conservative country and Prof Ben Twinomugisha reminded those present that the religious and conservative lobby defeated attempts to legalize abortion in the Kenyan constitution of 2010.

He called for a  human rights-based approach to the debate of  contraception and abortion in Uganda by respecting both sides of the spectrum- a woman’s right of  access to safe abortion and a right of a woman to continue to full term with an un-intended pregnancy on religious and moral grounds.
‘’unintended pregnancy is the root cause of most abortions-and the injuries and deaths that often follow-providing better family planning services would dramatically improve maternal health in Uganda’’ said Moses Mulumba.

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