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At every parley or public function, Kenyan health officials are in a no-holds-barred mood as they discuss HIV/Aids and opportunistic infections. However the mood changes to one of open hostility when the issue of abortion crops up.

Reason? Abortion is illegal in this country, unless in very unique circumstances.


The official response the topic elicits belies the number of women dying everyday as a result of abortion. It is estimated that this figure is even higher than the figures recorded on diseases many people are comfortable talking about.

A recent survey brings out these sobering facts and statistics. Not only does abortion remain a major cause of maternal mortality in Kenya, it is also an economic burden to the women concerned, their families, communities and the government, observes the survey.

Conducted by Reproductive Health Advocacy Programme (RHAP) based on records at Kenyatta National Hospital and 56 district hospitals, the survey shows that 60 percent of the total gynaecological emergency admissions are the result of abortion complications. There are 89 government health facilities in Kenya.

The draft document notes that: "Hospital based studies have shown that unsafe abortion, whether induced or spontaneous, is a major cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya.

A retrospective review of hospital records in Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi attributed upto 60 percent of gynaecological emergency admissions to abortion-related complications."

Most of the women captured in the statistics are in their early and late 20's, and go to the hospitals after procuring abortion on the back streets in the hands of quacks.

Doctors and nurse interviewed by AWC Feature Service say the problem is too big for them. Often they find themselves dealing with the same woman on more than three occasions.

"There is a case where a young woman came back on different occasions seeking post-abortal care. Every time she came in after procuring a fresh abortion, she changed her name, but we knew her," says one the gynaecologists who sought anonymity.

The doctor adds that the girl did not come back when she realised her game had been discovered.

What could be the problem of such a girl? Researchers who conducted the study at KNH believe failure to disseminate reproductive health information to adolescents about sex and reproductive health is to blame for the high abortion rates in the country.