ZIMBABWE – Misoprostol: essential medication for post-abortion care stock-outs

Health facilities that are meant to offer post-abortion care in Zimbabwe are experiencing shortages of misoprostol, an essential medication for providing this service. Research conducted by Prof Tsungai Chipato, from the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, in conjunction with the Guttmacher Institute, the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Women’s Action Group, showed that 55% of health facilities had run out of misoprostol, 35% had run out of blood for transfusions, and 35% had run out of intravenous antibiotics. Tertiary hospitals had the highest rates of stock-outs. Moreover, it was found that 20% of public facilities asked women to pay for post-abortion care prior to treatment, such as buying intravenous antibiotics at a private pharmacy, even though these services are supposed to be provided at no cost. If they can’t pay, they die, the report says.

Prof Chipato also reported that the surgical methods used to treat abortion complications are not recommended by WHO, and that in half the facilities designated to provide manual vacuum aspiration in cases of complications in the first trimester, which is recommended and is a safer and less costly procedure, the MVA equipment is not available. The report called for nurses to be trained to handle the large caseload involved. Some 40% of women who have had an abortion experienced complications. In 2016, women were waiting two full days between experiencing complications and completing treatment. As many as 19% of women experienced severe complications and 3% died or nearly died as a consequence of these health system failures.

SOURCE: Daily News Zimbabwe, by Letwin Nyambayo, 27 October 2018 ; PHOTO