ZIMBABWE – Backstreet abortions in appalling conditions

Backstreet abortions are still being done in Zimbabwe usingknitting needles, spoons, dishwashing liquid, dangerous pills and concoctions. Theyare putting the lives of hundreds of women at risk. A lot are dying andsuffering in silence, while others do not seek medical help until it is toolate.

There are more than 60,000 unsafe abortions each year, halfof them in adolescents. 16% percent of maternal deaths are due to unsafeabortions. The 2016 national adolescent fertility study by the ZimbabweNational Family Planning Council, showed that 9% of adolescents aged 10-19years had fallen pregnant.

The Zimbabwe Sunday Mail conducted an in-depth investigationof backstreet abortions this month.

The first young woman they spoke to, aged 19, lives in ahigh-density Harare suburb. She was nearly four months pregnant when she wentfor a clandestine abortion. She said she was first given misoprostol, then theyused forceps to open her cervix, and dug the fetus out using a spoon and aknitting needle. The pain was excruciating. She was haemorrhaging and almostbled to death, and was found by friends. She said she is still bleeding, andemits an unpleasant smell.

“Street doctors” andtraditional healers who trade at the famous Mupedzanhamo Market in Mbare andsaid to be the chief suppliers of concoctions, which they believe completelyterminate pregnancies. They also work with unscrupulous doctors, bringingtogether a coterie of operatives and runners from the major hospitals. At thesame time, some doctors at Zimbabwe’s major referral hospitals are facilitatingthe unlawful termination of unwanted pregnancies using prescription drugs.

Tablets known as “chigeza mudumbu”, popularly believed to bemisoprostol, have flooded the market. Runners and middlemen such as traditionalhealers, “street doctors”, accredited health practitioners and evenhairdressers, are said to be cashing in on the growing demand. Sources saidhealth practitioners from public hospitals are major players. Some are evenrenting apartments where abortions take place. If something goes wrong, thepatients are smuggled into health centres for treatment.

One dealer said they used pills such as misoprostol toinduce pre-term labour and abortion. They get the pills from doctors andpharmacies at a cheap price and resell for high prices. Abortions at privateclinics are said to cost from US$150-$300. Sometimes illegal providers overdosewomen, giving them mixtures of laxatives, aspirin and other medications. Attimes, they remove the fetus using household equipment like wire hangers andfire tongs. Once they have taken money, they usually disappear.

Women and girls are resorting to illegal abortions becauseof poverty, according to the Family Health Director, Health and Child CareMinistry, Dr Bernard Madzima.

SOURCE: Sunday MailZimbabwe, by Emmanuel Kafe, 26 January 2020 ; PHOTO: by Florent Vergnes,APF/Getty Images, in Sunday Mail & Guardian, by M&G Health Centre forJournalism, Bhekisisa, 1 February 2019, in www.pressreader.com