At least 18 abortions are occurring among every 1 000 women aged between 15 and 49, with a cumulative figure of 66 800 abortions per year being registered, a new study has shown.
By Phyllis Mbanje
The first ever comprehensive study on abortion in Zimbabwe has revealed that nearly all abortions in the country are clandestine and likely unsafe.
Many of the cases result in complications that require medical treatment, but only half of women receive the care that is expected.
There are many gaps in service provision, with majority of primary health centres lacking post-abortive care.
In Zimbabwe, a woman who has had an abortion can seek after-care at a public health institution, with no questions asked.
“But, however, there are many challenges, with most facilities lacking the capacity to treat these women. Services are supposed to be free, but on the ground, women are asked to pay, which is prohibitive,” Tsungai Chipato, one of the researchers of the study, said.
Addressing stakeholders during the dissemination of the study results, Chipato said more than half of the health facilities reported shortages of misoprostol (an essential medicine for post-abortion care) in the three months preceding the survey.
“We can improve services by equipping the facilities with enough medicines as well as trained staff to offer the post abortive care,” Chipato said.
Director of family health in the Health ministry, Bernard Madzima, said previously it was difficult to even brooch the subject, but now with evidence from the study, deliberations would be carried out in earnest.
“It is an emotive subject and it was near impossible to discuss in the absence of evidence to back up the issues, like the fact that abortion contributes 20% of the maternal deaths,” he said.
Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of over 600 deaths per 100 000 live births.
Abortion is legally permitted in the country only under limited circumstances, including if the pregnant woman is at risk or has been raped.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences Clinical Trials Research Centre, the Health and Child Care ministry and the United States-based Guttmacher Institute.