ETHIOPIA: High death rate from illegal abortions

ETHIOPIA: High death rate from illegal abortions

ADDIS ABABA, 28 Oct 2002 (IRIN) - More Ethiopian women die in hospital from illegal abortion complications than for almost any other medical reason, the World Health Organisation (WHO) told IRIN on Monday.

It estimates that some 70 percent of women, who are brought to hospital suffering from serious problems after back street abortions, will die.

Research shows that for every 100,000 women who have abortions in Ethiopia, 1,209 women will die. Only tuberculosis kills more women in hospital.

Abortions are illegal in Ethiopia, although back street operations are widespread. The majority of deaths occur in women aged between 16 and 20.

The WHO does not advocate the legalisation of abortion, but calls for better family planning to help avoid the need for abortions.

“If you admit 10 criminal abortion cases, then seven may die,” said Dr Abonesh Haile Mariam, programme officer for the WHO family health and population section in Ethiopia.

“In the whole country we are talking about thousands of deaths due to criminal abortions,” she said. “In terms of hospital fatalities it is one of the biggest causes of death."

Problems caused by unsafe abortions are also having an impact on overstrained health services in the country, where health expenditure per person is just US $1.50.

According to the Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ESOG), treatment costs around 300 Ethiopian Birr (US $35).