Experts count the cost of backstreet abortions

Backstreet abortions are driving the public health sector to its knees with tax payers left to clean up the mess, according the Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC).

Preliminary findings from an ongoing national survey in 128 Level II to VI public health facilities shows that the high number of women with complications resulting from unsafe abortions are a major burden to the struggling sector.

The survey covers all the eight former provinces and will be completed in December next year. The team undertaking the study is expected to quantify exactly how much money Kenyans are spending to treat women who have gone through unsafe abortions.

The researchers are led by Maharouf Oyolola, was also involved in the recent study, which revealed that 465,000 unsafe abortions were carried out in 2012.

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Further analysis showed that 375,000 of these women developed complications requiring medical attention mainly in public hospitals.

The Government has also revealed that backstreet abortions are killing about 2,600 women annually, way above the number killed by cervical cancer. Last year, 2,451 women in Kenya died from cervical cancer according to the World Health Organisation's Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Information Centre.

"Given the magnitude of complications from unsafe abortion and the diverted resources required, it is important to capture the cost required," says a brief from the team.

For example, of almost 375,000 patients requiring post-abortion treatment, suffer moderate to severe complications. Each of these patients, the research team adds, will on average require the attention of five different types of healthcare cadres.

"In addition, huge quantities of much-needed life-saving supplies, such as blood and costly drugs (such as misoprostol) are used during these procedures."

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The preliminary findings also indicate that post-abortion care consumes a lot of time from highly-skilled but scarce health care professionals.

The final findings, the team says will provide much-needed comparison between the current Government cost of post-abortion care and the cost of providing safe, induced abortion care.

The Constitution allows abortion only if the health of the mother is determined to be in danger by a qualified medical professional.

But even with this provision, unsafe abortions have continued to rise with health workers asking for policy guidance.

They have been seeking an explanation on what constitutes danger to a woman's health.

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On Wednesday last week, however, the Ministry of Health launched a policy that makes it easier for health workers to provide legal and safe abortions.

The new National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy 2015 says: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

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abortionpublic health facilitiesAfrican Population and Health Research Centre