Promote contraceptive use to curb unsafe abortions

WHEN Tamary (not her real name) fell pregnant at 15 and realised her boyfriend was now playing hide-and-seek with her, she decided to terminate the pregnancy in a botched abortion procedure that nearly cost her life.

BY ELIA NTALI

A home-made concoction prescribed to her by a close relative brought untold suffering to the then Form 2 pupil.

“I was told to drink a lot of aloe plant mixed with Jik (a fabric bleach) and another substance which I cannot remember to get rid of the pregnancy. I was in pain and I bled profusely only to be saved at the hospital,” she recalled.

She had knowledge about contraceptives, but myths and misinformation surrounding contraceptives convinced her to avoid them.

“People say a lot about contraceptives, you are told that you might never give birth or conceive whilst others say you become fat and it put me off,” Tamary said.

A lot of risks are associated with unsafe abortions and many young women continue to seek for these life threatening services.

Experts have called for the scaling up of access and promotion of contraceptives amongst sexually active women so as to reduce the scourge of unsafe abortions.

“There is need to increase promotion of contraceptive use amongst adolescents and sexually active women as it will reduce issues of abortion,” Lawrence Gurupira, a local gynaecologist.

Sindiso Moyo from the Students and Youths Working on Reproduction Health Action Team (SayWhat) lamented the exclusion of adolescents in programmes related to contraceptives saying there was need to involve adolescents.

The country’s constitution says an abortion is to be performed solely to save the life of the pregnant woman.

It stipulates the ground under which an illegal abortion could be obtained, permitting the performance of an abortion if its continuation so endangered the life of the woman or posed a serious threat or permanent impairment to her physical health.

In addition, it covers pregnancies in which there was a reasonable possibility that the fetus had been conceived as a result of unlawful intercourse, rape, incest or intercourse with a mentally handicapped woman.

According to a UNFPA Zimbabwe, assistant representative Abbigail Msemburi, family planning has the power to save lives through the prevention of negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

“Last year (2016), UNFPA support to family planning in the country averted 177 000 unintended pregnancies, 53 000 unsafe abortions and 760 maternal deaths as well as reducing the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections,” Msemburi said.

The National Family Planning Strategy 2016-2020 states that the unmet need for contraception in Zimbabwe stands at 13% and is the lowest in Sub Saharan Africa.

“For the young people aged 15-19, the unmet need is at 17% and 10% for 30-34 age groups (according to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010/11). Though not captured in ZDHS, it could be significantly high among people with disabilities and people living with HIV and Aids,” it says in part.

The strategy, according to ZDHS 2010/11 further states that knowledge of any contraceptive method in Zimbabwe is universal, with 98% of women and 99% of men knowing at least one method of contraception.

Zimbabwe is part of a consortium of donors and stakeholders who made a global commitment with the aim to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women globally by 2020 and is dubbed Family Planning 2020 (FP2020).

Since 2012 Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health and Child Care has made various commitments which include an increase in Contraceptive Prevalent Rate (CPR) from 59% to 68%.

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