The launch of the project on 30 September 2019 included a ceremony presided over by Prof Mbu Robinson, Director, Department of Family Health, with speeches from President Prof Leke of the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon (SOGOC) and the focal point of the project Dr Eko. The vision of the project is in line with the directives of the Ministry of Public Health. Unsafe abortion was identified as a leading cause of maternal mortality. The Government acknowledged they need the support of collaborators like SOGOC and others dealing in sexual reproductive health, so as to combat maternal deaths.
Also attending were representatives of partner institutions, including Cameroon Association for Social Marketing, RENATA, Cameroon National Association for Family Welfare, Cameroon Association of Women Lawyers, Association of Midwives of Cameroon, and the No Limit for Women Project.
SOGOC’s mission is to collaborate with the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health, health-related institutions, partners in reproductive health (national, international), civil society and the community in order to optimize the standard of practice in obstetrics and gynaecology nationally and ensure that optimum reproductive healthcare is available, accessible and affordable to all women.
Through a three-year Advocacy for Comprehensive Abortion Care project, SOGOC intends to tackle issues that stop women and young girls in Cameroon from having access to comprehensive abortion care services within the confines of the law. These include:
- The poor and negative perception of abortion by health providers, policy makers and the general population which often stigmatises those seeking care;
- Restrictive abortion laws in Cameroon (Penal Code 2007 article 337-339) which stipulate that the provision of abortions is illegal except if proven necessary to save the mother from grave danger to her health or when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
- Ignorance of the existing abortion laws, norms and protocols by health service providers and the public.
- Lack of communication about the laws governing abortion in Cameroon.
- Lack of implementation of the Maputo Protocol, which has been ratified by the president of Cameroon, which allows for abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the woman or fetus.
- Cultural and religious beliefs.
- Inadequate number of trained professionals who can provide abortion care services.
Existing research data show that over 25% of maternal morbidity and mortality in Cameroon, including long-term health complications like infertility, is due to unsafe abortions.
SOGOC aims to influence public perception of comprehensive abortion care through sub-grants for sensitisation campaigns aimed at adolescents on the negative effects of unsafe abortion; a network of like-minded stakeholders to promote national advocacy for comprehensive abortion care; and make at least 200 qualified health personnel more aware of the norms and protocols on comprehensive abortion care in Cameroon.
SOURCE: FIGO News + PHOTO, 29 October 2019