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Crude methods Kenyan girls are using to abort

NAIROBI: Cases of mainly girls taking concoctions or inserting sticks into the vagina illustrate the crude ways women try using to procure abortions that leave them bleeding profusely, says a midwife in one of the Nairobi hospitals located near a slum.


“We also receive cases of girls who have taken herbs, substances like kerosene or bleach,” she says.

A nurse who has more than 15 years working experience in one of the city hospitals says there are cases of girls having inserted sharp objects to try procure abortions but they end up endangering their lives.

“A few years ago, a girl from a rich family was rushed to the hospital bleeding but when we tried asking her about the cause of bleeding, she declined to talk,” says the nurse, adding: “Test results from the lab indicated she was pregnant and upon carrying out a scan, it was discovered that her womb was torn and we found a piece of wire inside,” she says.

“On probing further, we discovered that she had been impregnated by a boy from the slum, who later advised her to insert the wire,” says the nurse.

According to the Ministry of Health, 300,000 abortions were procured in 2002 and 450,000 are carried out every year in Kenya.

Abortion has become more common and rampant, especially in slums, where most teenage girls engage in unprotected sex.

According to research, estates in places such as Eastlands in Nairobi are notorious for illegal abortions, with the cheapest going for around Sh300. In places like Mathare, Dandora, Mukuru kwa Njenga and Murumi kwa Reuben are said to have the highest number of abortion cases.

Most of these abortions are procured in clinics, majority of which are not registered. Miriam Kiarie, a medical officer in Nairobi, says reasons such as lack of sensitisation contribute largely to abortions in the slums.


She says slums have the least chance in getting training from the Government.

“When such programmes are planned, they are mostly done in towns. The only people who train residents in the slums are non-governmental organisations,” she says. Kiarie told The Standard that abortions in the slums are procured even with the help of parents due to high levels of poverty.

“Tough economic times push many women and girls to procure abortions. Many see the birth of a child as a burden,” she says.

Kiarie also says parents are not ready to talk to their children about sex and methods of contraception, leaving them at the mercy of peer influence.

She says this has also contributed to rising cases of abortions.

“We have heard cases where a girl goes ahead to procure an abortion and the parent is shocked to receive news of the death of the child when they did not even know she was pregnant,” Kiarie says.

The officer recommends that sex education be taught in schools and methods of contraception be introduced to older girls. “We cannot bury our heads in the sand and assume this is not happening. Sex education should be introduced in our school syllabus,” she adds.

Most cases are not reported, hence the assumption that they are not common.

The controversy has always been about when life begins and if abortion should be legalised.

Pro-life activists insisted abortion should not be legalised since it is against morals and religion. The church has come out strongly to condemn the vice, saying it is murder.

However, other groups argue that with legalisation, people would be free to access safe abortion from qualified health facilities and the deaths would be fewer.

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