NIGERIA – Unsafe abortions: public health experts decry high death rates

At the 5th Scientific Conference of the Society for Public Health Professionals of Nigeria, held at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja, a special session was held on “Public health challenges of unintended pregnancies and abortion: Global and national dimensions”. It was facilitated by the NGO Academy for Health Development, Ile-Ife, Osun State, in collaboration with the Guttmacher Institute, New York, USA.

A number of public health experts, including scholars and researchers, decried the high death rate resulting from unsafe abortion in Nigeria, especially among adolescents, and urged government to increase investment in sexual and reproductive health. They also agreed that the lives of women and girls, aged 15-49, lost daily to unsafe abortions, are worth more than the amount of funding required to provide the needed facilities and services to keep them alive, along with comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents.

Adesegun Fatusi, Professor of Community Medicine and Public Health, disclosed that Nigeria has the highest burden of maternal mortality, according to the latest research by the World Health Organization, and that no fewer than 67,000 women die annually in Nigeria from pregnancy-related causes, with a record of at least 20 deaths daily across the country, and about 11% of those deaths due to unsafe abortion.

Dr Ejike Oji, a physician and Chairman, Management Committee, Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, posited that the rates of unintended pregnancies and abortion are going up in Nigeria, leading to a rise in abortion-related death, which happen when women seek to terminate pregnancies they could not prevent, whether it is legal or not, leading to a lot of disabilities, infertility and deaths.

Elizabeth Alatu-Williams, National Coordinator of the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development, asserted that many adolescents engage in unsafe sex leading to unintended pregnancies and in the long run, unsafe abortions. She emphasised the importance of comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and young people.

Other participants enjoined the government, religious leaders, parents, teachers and other stakeholders to make safe spaces available for adolescents so they can be protected from death occasioned by unintended pregnancy leading to unsafe abortion.

SOURCE: Voice of Nigeria, by Olubunmi Osoteku, 31 August 2023