Four out of every 10 maternal deaths recorded in the country are of teenagers who succumb to abortion-related complications, according to the National Annual Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report of 2019/2020 compiled by the health ministry.
Loyce, a former secondary student in Mayuge district conceived during the
lockdown last year. Scared and confused, Loyce decided to perform an abortion. Unfortunately,
she developed sepsis and passed away seven days later. Her sister Mary Nabirye
says that there was little they could do to save her life.
"She did not tell
anyone what was happening. She kept quiet until it was too late. We found out
she was sick after when developed a high temperature. She could not walk. She was
sweating and shivering and was taken to hospital," Nabirye narrates.
According to Nabirye,
they went to Iganga General Hospital where doctors told them that she was
suffering from a bacterial infection as a result of an abortion and not malaria
as they had initially suspected. She passed on a day later after admission,
according to Nabirye.
Four out of
every 10 maternal deaths recorded in the country are of teenagers who succumb
to abortion-related complications, according to the National Annual Maternal
and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report of 2019/2020 compiled by
the health ministry.
Maternal death or
mortality is defined by the World Health Organisation as the death of any woman
during pregnancy or within 42 days of terminating a pregnancy. The report shows that 61
cases per 100,000 maternal deaths were among expectant mothers aged between 10
and 19 years of age. The highest number of deaths was reported at regional
referral hospitals followed by general hospitals.
Dr. Richard Mugahi, the
Assistant Commissioner of Infant and Maternal Child Health in Ministry of Health,
says that the highest numbers of deaths result from abortion complications in
this age group.
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According to the Ministry
of Health, 8 percent of all maternal deaths reported are caused by abortion
complications. Haemorrhage and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are the most
common causes of death, each leading to 45 and 13 percent of all deaths
Figures from the health ministry show that an estimated 297,000
abortions are carried out annually. Of these 85,000 women are treated for
Many of the
reported cases are from health facilities where women go to seek post-abortion
care. Annet Atim, a nursing sister at Iganga General Hospital says that many of
the deaths occur because patients are referred late to hospitals.
of the expectant mothers come to the hospital when they are in bad condition.
Some come when they are already bleeding and have lost a lot of blood. Other
patients especially the young ones who have carried out abortions first keep
quiet. They come when they are sick, have complications but when you ask them,
they tell you lies and you waste time investigating their symptoms," she
Mugahi attributes the
high number of deaths to existing gaps in family planning services.
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Health rights activists
say the government's policy that denies teenagers from accessing family
planning services is doing more harm than good. Annah Kukundakwe, the Director
at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development says that to stop the
deaths of teenage girls, the government needs to provide them with family
"These deaths are
avoidable but the problem is that many girls cannot access family planning
services. If they could access family planning services such as condoms or
contraceptive pills, then they would not become pregnant. They would be safe.
But now that is not an option and girls who become pregnant end up dying due to
unsafe abortions," Kukundakwe said.
According to Mugahi,
more work needs to be done to avoid such situations. He says a multi-sector
approach is needed to make sure that girls in and out of schools can easily
access help when they need it.