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Abortion accountable for over 13% maternal mortality in Cameroon – Report

Workshop Participants group photo © Menchum Voice

It has been revealed that induced abortions account for up to 13% of Maternal Mortality in Cameroon. This was the outcome of a colloquium on Thursday January 26, 2017 at the Djeuga Palace Hotel in Yaoundé on harmful reduction in reproductive health.

Organised by Cameroonian Association for Social Marketing, ACMS in partnership with the Soa Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (SIALS) under the patronage of the Ministry of Public Health, the colloquium which had as theme “21st Century Legal and Operational Challenges of Contraception and Abortion” was intended to stir debates on the relevance of contraception as one of the best ways of fighting against abortions.

Opening the colloquium on behalf Andre Mama Fouda, Public Health Minister, Prof. Koulla Shiro Sinata, Secretary of the Ministry, said government’s commitment to save lives is seen in the Penal Code which makes illegal abortion punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment. She expressed the need for a reform of the law to legalise comprehensive abortion. Prof. Koulla expressed regret that maternal mortality had increased from 669 to 782 deaths from 100 000 life births between 2004 and 2011 in Cameroon.

For her part, the representative of the Dean of Faculty of Laws and Political Science of the University of Yaoundé II, Soa said there was need for a lot of advocacy to push government into changing obsolete laws. She said her faculty was involved in legal research on such issues.

In her welcome address, Dr Francoise Nissack, Board Chair of ACMS, expressed the hope that the recommendations made at the colloquium would help to improve on Cameroon’s legal arsenal in the health domain. It was revealed during the discussions that Cameroon had very restrictive abortion laws dating as far back as 1967 which experts say should be reformed to suit the changing times.

In Cameroon, abortion is authorized only when the woman’s life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest. But paradoxically, some 36 Cameroonian women out of 1000 aged between 15 and 44 years undertake abortion on a yearly basis. Most of these abortions are carried out in unauthorized places by unqualified persons, putting the lives of these women in danger. Consequently, up to 46000 women have been identified as needing healthcare after abortion every year.

It is in a bid to reverse this trend that health experts are proposing in the short term, the adoption of modern contraception techniques on a more sustained basis, and in the long term, a reform of Cameroon’s legislation on abortion to include prescription abortion. Contraception prevalence in Cameroon currently stands at 14%, but Cameroon has taken commitments to attain 30% by 2020.

This, according to Prof. Mbuh Robinson, Director of Family and Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Public Health, is attainable. Speaking at the opening of the colloquium, Dr Mbuh said Cameroon was making inroads in this domain and was being considered as a reference in Africa. He said while other African countries were between 7 and 14% contraception prevalence, Cameroon had gained 7 percentage points in a matter of three years (2014-2017). He was optimistic that the commitment taken by Cameroon to leapfrog from 11 to 30% prevalence by 2020 would be respected.

According to global statistics, 21.6 million women experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year; 18.5 million of these occur in developing countries. 47 000 women die from complications of unsafe abortion each year while deaths due to unsafe abortion remain close to 13% of all maternal deaths.

The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is 450 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births versus 9 in developed countries. Fifteen countries have maternal mortality ratios of at least 1000 per 100,000 live births, of which all but Afghanistan and India are in sub-Saharan Africa: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, India Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia (WHO, 2008).


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