The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs – Series – NYTimes.com

Death in Birth – The tragic reality of Life in Africa

Credit Source : NY Times

Desperate Measures

More than half a million women a year die during pregnancy and in childbirth, largely from problems that can be treated or prevented. This is the second of three articles on efforts to lower the death rate in one African country, Tanzania.

Abortion is illegal in Tanzania (except to save the mother’s life or health), so women and girls turn to amateurs, who may dose them with herbs or other concoctions, pummel their bellies or insert objects vaginally. Infections, bleeding and punctures of the uterus or bowel can result, and can be fatal. Doctors treating women after these bungled attempts sometimes have no choice but to remove the uterus.

Pregnancy and childbirth are among the greatest dangers that women face in Africa, which has the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality — at least 100 times those in developed countries. Abortion accounts for a significant part of the death toll.

Maternal mortality is high in Tanzania: for every 100,000 births, 950 women die. In the United States, the figure is 11, and it is even lower in other developed countries. But Tanzania’s record is neither the best nor the worst in Africa. Many other countries have similar statistics; quite a few do better and a handful do markedly worse.

Eighty percent of Tanzanians live in rural areas, and the hospital in Berega — miles from paved roads and electric poles — is a typical rural hospital, struggling to deal with the same problems faced by hospitals and clinics in much of the country. Abortion is a constant worry.

Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women (accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths), mostly in poor countries like Tanzania where abortion is illegal, according to the World Health Organization. More than two million women a year suffer serious complications. According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Reliable figures on abortion in Tanzania are hard to come by, but the World Health Organization reports that its region, Eastern Africa, has the world’s second-highest rate of unsafe abortions (only South America is higher). And Africa as a whole has the highest proportion of teenagers — 25 percent — among women having unsafe abortions.

The 120-bed hospital in Berega depends on solar panels and a generator, which is run for only a few hours a day. Short on staff members, supplies and even water, the hospital puts a lot of its scarce resources into cleaning up after failed abortions.

The medical director, Dr. Paschal Mdoe, 30, said many patients who had had the unsafe abortions were 16 to 20 years old, and four months pregnant. He said there was a steady stream of cases, much as he had seen in hospitals in other parts of the country.

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2 Responses to “The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs – Series – NYTimes.com”

  1. […] The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs – Series – NYTimes.com […]

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