RWANDA – Medical Students for Choice: African regional meeting

 

…The Global Gag Rule has taken US domestic threats against family planning onto the worldwide stage. In the context of these threats, Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) brought together 76 MSFC members from eight countries and 12 medical schools in Africa for our first African Regional Meeting.

MSFC has been supporting chapters in Africa since 2009… [We] felt it was imperative to bring together our African members in order to provide educational support and more clearly ascertain their needs. Abortion is either illegal or highly restricted in all the countries represented, but in most countries advocacy efforts are underway to liberalize their abortion laws. In most cases, the MSFC chapter is engaged in those efforts. The African Regional Meeting provided students with education on abortion and contraception, as well as opportunities to explore personal values, develop advocacy skills, and obtain skills in abortion provision…

…Students attended from Nigeria, Malawi, Egypt, South Africa, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda, in addition to 48 students from Rwanda. Universities represented were: University of Rwanda, Gulu University (Uganda), University of Malawi, University of Burundi, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University (Tanzania), University of Cape Town (South Africa), Alexandria University (Egypt), Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda), University of Gitwe (Rwanda), Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda), and Busitema University (Uganda)…

Over these past 8 years, MSFC chapter members in Africa have benefitted from MSFC’s establishment of training collaborations with IPPF affiliate organizations in Uganda, Tanzania, and Ghana through MSFC’s Reproductive Health Externship Program. Dr Kenneth Buyinza, clinical director of the IPPF affiliate in Uganda served as our lead faculty member for the meeting. Two other faculty members were MSFC alumni, one an abortion provider in Ghana and the other, from Rwanda, a fellow with the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins. All three of these physicians have already seen funding and service impacts from the implementation of the Global Gag Rule and are even more committed to ensuring that medical students receive education on family planning and abortion so that they can better serve their future patients.

A new physician in Burundi wrote this to us: “In the course of my internship in gynecology and obstetrics from September 2016 to January 2017, four adolescent girls died and six risked their lives, suffering hemorrhage because of unsafe abortion. Other women told me that they have been forced to abandon the use of contraceptive methods by their husbands or their mothers in law and some had children too soon or complications during pregnancy. Furthermore, my country is among the three poorest in the world, more than 60% of children are undernourished and the natality rate is about six children per woman. To educate all Burundian women concerning their sexuality and reproductive health seems urgent. To do this, I need more information.”

… What was most clear during this meeting was that medical students in Africa, despite more extreme public health needs and barriers, receive no more routine family planning education than medical students in the US… MSFC are working to develop ways that we can provide more effective training support to these student activists despite the many logistical barriers, and we are seeking in-country partners to help with that effort. Most of all, we hope to use the relationships we built through this meeting to enhance our students’ ability to learn from each other…

 

SOURCE: Medical Students for Choice, by Lois V Backus,  Executive Director, MSFC, 28 July 2017